Brutalism

by IDLES

Released March 10, 2017 via Partisan Records

Reviewed March 2, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Mother (58%), 1049 Gotho (42%), Heel / Heal (42%)

Five years removed from their debut album, IDLES now have four records under their belt and have cemented their place as one of the biggest names in modern punk music. The Bristol band came out barreling with Brutalism, firmly positioning their political beliefs at the core of their identity. This record is messy, but every second of it is as tight as can be; it is aggressive and relentless, but simultaneously tender and vulnerable. These characteristics would set the foundation for IDLES, with Brutalism being as much of a masterpiece for its raucous and jerky bursts of energy as it is for its clever and ferocious social commentary. Surrounded by swirling and frenzied guitar-work, bolstered by volatile and bruising rhythms, IDLES never come with less than 110% energy. Frontman Joe Talbot matches every bit of energy the band brings, vocalizing a sense of urgency within every word that he penned. Brutalism tackles a wide range of subjects—depression, drug abuse, misogyny, toxic masculinity, inequality, and political unrest—and despite the clear rage that these topics evoke, IDLES’ anger is contained and purposeful. Often filtered through witty humor, Brutalism stands up for the mistreated, misrepresented, and exploited while pushing back against right-wing politics, harmful stereotypes, and those who seek to maintain the status quo that benefits only a select few. There aren’t many debut albums quite like Brutalism, and there are even fewer bands that pack a punch as hard as IDLES does. – Dominick (9.3/10)


Brutalism is a style of architecture responding to the destruction of buildings ravaged by the Second World War, highlighting building materials ungarnished by paint or gravel veneer. You would expect IDLES’ debut manifesto would aim to turn rock inside-out, inspired by the movement and the urban decay inflicted upon England’s cheap inner-city social housing. The album doesn’t quite do that, but it does embrace post-hardcore with some raw climaxes, relatively simple yet punchy riffs, and a lyrical wit to match them both. “Well Done” swings back and forth with a grunge flair, imitating a condescending lip-service to economic and cultural items that are hoarded and appropriated by snobs respectively, for example. While differing in concept and structure, some tracks start very similarly, like “Mother” and “Rachel Khoo,” with their zig-zagging bass guitar and distinct snare combos. This makes the initial run from start to finish slightly tiresome, and five years later, it’s even more noticeable. Thoroughly resemblant sounds trickle through the rest of their discography, like the descending angular strums that join the post-chorus and bridge of “Date Night” are mirrored in “Danny Nedelko.” Brutalism is IDLES’ instrumental and thematic blueprint. It’s great, and fortunately doesn’t feel sour with age just yet, especially since its critiques of revived social issues (like emasculation) are only integrating into mainstream discourse now. However, finishing this album was unsettling for me, not from a fault in Brutalism’s character or the existentialism deriving from its themes, but in fear that IDLES might not surpass this with something just as simultaneously tight-knit, abrasive, and means-free. – Cam (8/10)


IDLES influential debut, Brutalism, turns five. The band embodies the brutalist movement in their material and parallels specific characteristics of the movement on Brutalism: sharp edges, heavy material, and a rough approach to the finished product. Joe Talbot's mother passed away during the recording of the album, inherently influencing the subject matter and overall emotive essence. Mark Bowen, Lee Kiernan, Adam Devonshire, and Jon Beavis provide a harsh, forthright backdrop in the process. A bold statement from one of the UK's finest bands on the contemporary scene. They would reach further fields and play decade-defining gigs at the likes of Glastonbury in the years to come, but Brutalism finds them at their rawest and most anarchic best. – Peter (8/10)


Dominick: 9.4/10 | Hadley: 9/10 | Jared: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8/10 | Peter: 8/10