Idlewild explore variations on a dream with kaleidoscopic new album Interview Music.
When Idlewild returned from a five-year break in 2015 with their anthemic album Everything Ever Written, it felt like reuniting with an old friend – as soon as you’re back in their presence for five minutes, it’s like you’ve never been separated. It sounded like the years apart melted away for them too. Idlewild were back with renewed vigour and Roddy Woomble (lead vocals), Rod Jones (guitar, backing vocals), Colin Newton (drums), Andrew Mitchell (bass) and Luciano Rossi (keyboards) found themselves plotting a new album the same week that Everything Ever Written was released.
It has taken a while to get here but Interview Music (released on 5 April via Empty Words) is that new album. Produced by Dave Eringa – who produced earlier albums The Remote Part and 100 Broken Windows – Interview Music is both a classic Idlewild album and a step into new territory. If this sounds vague that’s appropriate as Woomble has noted that the album’s lyrics “celebrate vagueness”. Woomble has also stated that “A lot of the songs are about dreams and dreaming and the thoughts and ideas that come from this state” and it’s not hard to spot this theme running through Interview Music. On the ridiculously catchy ‘There’s A Place For Everything’ – featuring a bright synth melody that sounds like it was pulled out of ‘Seven Wonders’ by Fleetwood Mac – Woomble sings “their dreams are so different from mine” and “inside I’m dreaming of nowhere”. While on ‘Familiar To Ignore’, which has the perfect interplay of crisp clean piano melody and dirty guitar riffs, he ominously notes that “no amount of sleep can prepare you for your dreams”.
Sonically the album is also difficult to grasp, like a dream after waking. There’s the buzzing start of ‘Dream Variations’, which changes pace to become a swooning waltz reminiscent of the feeling as you sink into sleep. Woomble asks “Dreams, why do they have to be so cruel? Why do they have to be a part of communication?” as you fall deeper into the song. Title track ‘Interview Music’ veers between reflections of Bowie and The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’. ‘Mount Analogue’ is a swirling assault on the senses, featuring a spiky brass section and a crackly old recording of Robert Frost reciting his poem ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening’. These variations of pace and style even continue between tracks with wonderful soundscapes and echoing piano melodies connecting the songs, allowing them to bleed into one another.
On the off-kilter ‘I Almost Didn’t Notice’, Woomble sings “It’s perfect for restless souls, like the classic mix of poetry into rock and roll”, which could be used to describe Idlewild’s enduring appeal. As well as being full of sonic dreamscapes and lyrical riddles, it is another Idlewild album that is anchored by Jones’ outstanding guitar playing and Woomble’s uniquely warm, sometimes snarling, vocals. ‘Bad Logic’ is wonderfully reminiscent of R.E.M. with a breathlessly aggressive chorus of “The past is not dead, it’s just living within us…The past is not dead, it’s just trying to reach us”. As Woomble has confirmed, “I’m not a kid rolling around screaming into a microphone on the floor anymore, but that ideal is still at our core.” ‘Same Things Twice’ is another personal favourite. Featuring a rhythmic start and a more punky vocal from Woomble who instructs us to “Rip it up, stop doing the same things twice”, it could easily be a commentary on the current political cycle of woe.
In closing track ‘Lake Martinez’ there is the beautiful line “what sets you apart sets you free, write that down legibly”. Idlewild have clearly taken these words to heart when making this album, celebrating the unique qualities that have cemented their rightful status as national treasures and using this grounding to explore a more expansive sound. With Interview Music Idlewild have made a dream of an album a simply stunning reality.