09 June 2005

love steals us from loneliness : idlewild

click here to listen
listening time: 3m 12s

this is first single and my second favorite song from idlewild's latest album warnings / promises, which is a solid piece of work and a welcome affirmation of the band's departure from their headier, earlier days. the 13 songs in this album, the very title of which suggests duality, alternate almost predictably between electric and acoustic. die-hard fans from their native scotland are probably crying sellout (it doesn't help that the band is opening for u2 and r.e.m. this summer) but standing on the soft side of alternative rock, i like them better this way. kinder, gentler, ten pints more sober.

my only glitch with warnings / promises is the heavy r.e.m. influence which to my ears is more obvious here than in their previous albums. when roody woomble sings the line happy birthday, are you lonely now in this song, you can almost hear michael stipe cry a similar line in shiny happy people. in fact, the acoustic half of the album could have come from r.e.m.'s out of time, and the electric half from monster. this doesn't necessarily mean that idlewild are losing their original sound; i guess they're on their way to finding a new one, and woomble's sharp, wistful songwriting and vocals make sure they don't falter along the way. get this from the all-acoustic not just sometimes but always, my favorite track:
i wake up hearing unfamiliar voices
convinced they're trying to explain
that if my words were clearer
then maybe i would know what i'm trying to say
just as those long forgotten voices
disappear back into rain
granted, the sedate, even soothing, medoly betrays the more somber reality of the song, but you can take that as a struggle against bleakness. it's hopeful, and hopeful is mature. welcome home, goodnight and the bonus track are also clear winners in this album, featuring vocal harmonies that are more pleasant than what r.e.m. can achieve. (not that anyone can actually harmonize with stipe.) both songs open with acoustic guitars and stay in that mode for the rest of the song. love steals us... as you can hear opens with pounding drums and angry riffs before mellowing out, a brilliant choice as first single because it best shows the band in transition. but it is still edgy, and if they keep it that way idlewild will stay on the good side of alternative pop, perhaps in the company of train, another great, under-appreciated r.e.m.-influenced band.

nine stars out of ten.

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