‘Expect the unexpected’ might be one summation of Idlewild’s eighth album, Interview Music, released 5th April.
“It is a disparate record; it’s more explorative. Some of the songs are classic Idlewild, whereas the rest of it goes off on different tangents,” guitarist Rod Jones recently told Guitars Exchange, and a listen to the Scottish band’s dream-inspired latest album certainly confirms this.
Long time collaborators Roddy Woomble (vocals and lyricist), Colin Newton (drums), and producer Dave Eringa, continue to ground the band; but this time they have been joined by Luciano Rossi (keyboards) and Andrew Mitchell (bass), which has given them a new sense of direction. “The band is re-energized: it is a new version of the band,” Woomble recently said.
Idlewild began almost a quarter of a century ago as an Indie band rooted in punk rock, and evolved into a group that played huge stadiums and delivered big anthemic songs. In this most recent incarnation they continue to push boundaries and experiment with touches of soul, psychedelia and even country music; creativity and ideas abound.
It seems that these ideas were at least in part fuelled by working in locations as diverse as the Outer Hebrides and Los Angeles. “I live in the Scottish Highlands, and between there and California you’ve got two locations that can put you in a dream-like state – driving down Sunset Boulevard as the sun sets or driving over the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula as the sun rises. The world seems unreal, magical. You’re dreaming through a landscape,” says Woomble.
There is no better expression of this than the album’s first single release, Dream Variations, which beautifully melds a strong bassline, piano; and what sounds like Rod Jones favoured 1964 Fender Jaguar. This catchy song immediately recalls early Idlewild but, just as the listener is getting comfortable with that idea, a curveball arrives as the song veers off into psychedelic territory, and into a delicious dream-like melody.
Similarly, I Almost Didn’t Notice begins with keyboard and vocals but then segues into a guitar oriented song - and leaves the listener wondering what rabbit could be drawn out of the hat next.
There’s A Place for Everything adds to the rich and varied palette by introducing synths; while Interview Music returns to the band’s rock roots, but with a twist, because of its innovative structure. The title song comes in at over five minutes, and its guitars and piano parts sometimes sound discordant but, miraculously, it works.
The experimentation continues on Mount Analogue, this time with wind instruments, and the punchy Bad Logic, where the famous description of the band as sounding like "the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs” might still apply.
The closing song, Lake Martinez, again represents a change of direction for Idlewild. Rossi provides the structure with some sublime piano playing as Woomble sings soulfully “It’s hard to write down how you’re feeling. Everyone’s always getting up and leaving. I feel fictional, going deeper into daydreams to understand it truthfully.”
It all adds up to another step forward in Idlewild’s exciting evolution from a heavily punk-influenced outfit to a band that is still willing to experiment and innovate a full generation later; the dream goes on.