The Idol Dead - 'Tension And Release' Album Review
1. Happy Now?
2. Black Dog Down
3. Blackout Girl
4. Heart On Sleeve
5. Let's Go
6. Clear Lines
11. Sympathy Bullet
I came across The Idol Dead through the haze of a PledgeMusic binge a free years ago. Their singer, Polly, had mentioned a pledge campaign through a Wildhearts forum. Sounds cool I thought and threw some money their way. Their album "Hollow Point Curses" was chock full of Punky, Rock n Roll tunes that I dug. So when they announced they were doing a new album through pledge I sent them over some cash and waited patiently for the album to drop.
"Tension and Release" is HPC's darker and, dare I say it (dare! dare!), maturer older sibling. It builds on the solid foundation they've built on their previous albums and expanded on it so much. The album is lean and mean, punching above it's weight and landing every blow they throw at you.
"There is a blackness in me and I can't deny it" sings Polly in the opening lines of 'Happy Now?'. You would expect from the quote that it would be a bit downbeat but no, it bounces along with a hook bigger than the Grand Canyon. It kicks off the album in style. Guitars crunch whilst the drums and bass lock together perfectly.
There's no sense of excess or flab either as 'Black Dog Down' swagger like the melodic bastard cousin of Iggy Pop, a song of love for someone who helps pick you up when you're in the throes of something bleaker than just having a bad day. I love the interplay between KC and Tim's guitars one this track, they work together so well. Following song 'Blackout Girl' kind of reminds me of 80's American Rock but really good 80's American Rock, it's melody and vocal harmonies hinting at something a bit darker than what it initially suggests.
This is what I mean about the material being more mature then most 'Rock' bands. There's a darker feel to the music and lyrics but they're more uplifting than brooding. Case in point, 'Heart On Sleeve' opens with the line "Dear brother when my blue skies turned to grey you were there for me" immediately building on positive aspects rather than dwelling on the negative before adding a "Fuck them all, I'm still breathing" after the best song breakdown I've heard since The Wildhearts. It's defiant and proud, an alternative anthem to remind you too keep going and to help those around you.
'Let's Go' stomps up with a sense of purpose, Dan laying down a melodic bass run for everyone else to build up from, especially when leading up to the song's chorus. 'Clear Lines' sweeps in, jabs a finger before flipping off it's subjects (men who objectify women). It's pretty full on but petty cool too, a reminder that not all people are idiots and most people with any kind of sense can see through that shit. 'Infected' is filled with self loathing of the I'm-not-good-enough-for-anyone variety without bordering on self pity.
"I will suck you dry" sings Polly on the chorus of 'Parasite' whilst the verses are driven along with a cowbell. It's a track Backyard Babies wish they could have written for any of their albums. 'C.H.I.M.S.A.' is the Punkiest track on the album, capturing the spirit of '77 perfectly but with a modern twist. This isn't about musical nostalgia.
The closing duo of songs change the tone. 'Samsara' sees Nish, the man behind the album's killer drums (his playing really does help give the songs that little extra lift), taking over the lead vocals, proving once again there is plenty of talent in the band. The song title comes from the concept of the constant cycle of rebirth and change that is often found in Eastern religion, and the feel of the track is quite thankful, a celebration of what is good in your life and how they can lift you. Final song 'Sympathy Bullet' almost comes across as a ballad and in some respects it is. The words "Time it doesn't heal, that's just a story that's just a cliche" are sung over it's closing. It's a song of loss and regret, the want and need to change things back to the way they were but being unable to. There's a sadness and yearning for what was once before that's quite poignant. It's a subtle way to end the album but it's far removed from being down beat, there's almost a palpable sense of hope that things might still change.
In another universe The Idol Dead are selling out venues with an ever growing army of followers. It's our loss that it's not the one we live in. There's huge songs here for the put down and put upon sections of society. There's no glossy pipe dreams being sold here that quickly lose their sheen. These are anthems we can all adopt as our own.
And I think that's part of the winning quality of The Idol Dead. They're one of us. They're playing straight from their hearts in a way we can love, with songs that will connect straight to your soul. If you miss having "Tension and Release" in your music collection you'll really be missing out on something special.
Website - http://theidoldead.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/theidoldead/
Review - Scott Hamilton
Photo - Neil Vary Gig Photography