Stewart Lee is an unabashed fan of Bristol punk rockers Idles. Their sound capture the mood of an uncertain nation, a siren sound for the underdog and the downtrodden – what the provocative comedian refers to as “snowflake oi”.
So The Big Issue brought them together. Lee met singer Joe Talbot and guitarist Mark Bowen as the band’s new album Ultra Mono hits the shelves.
The record, Idles’ third, takes the social and political issues that run like a thread through the fabric of Talbot’s lyrics and turns them on the listener — and on himself — in a new and sometimes uneasy fashion.
“Model Village” is a cutting portrait of an insular Britain, while “Grounds” critiques the critics: “Not a single thing has ever been mended by you standing there and saying you’re offended.”
“Lots of rock bands, they’re party bands,” says Lee, reflecting on song titles like “Mercedes Marxist”, the band’s 2019 single. “If they do cocaine and have loads of groupies it’s part of the image. But set yourself up as having values, if you make the slightest slip you’re really held accountable.
“There’s lines about small town mentalities in album single Model Village, attitudes to race and stuff. And then what the people on the right do is say, ‘Oh, you’re making fun of ordinary working people’s anxieties, you’re a snob.’