One Track Minded | IDLES Confront Masculinity On ‘Samaritans’

There’s a strong post-punk re-emergence happening all across the UK and Ireland. Bands like The Murder Capital and Fontaines DC are spearheading the latter – while Bristol-based IDLES lead the way. Post-punk was born from pure punk, but with less hectic music and more of a focus on musical abilities. Also, unlike punk, it brought outside influences from many different genres. It first popped up in the late 70s around the time when Margaret Thatcher came into power. Now under the thumb of the Tories again, more UK bands are coming out against the right in rule, mirroring the political turmoil that brought post-punk alive. Politics hasn’t seen such a divide since post-punk first emerged.

IDLES contribution to this conversation covers a wide range of subjects. ‘Danny Nedelko’ is an ode to an immigrant friend of the band, celebrating all the wonderful things about immigration. In another song titled ‘GREAT’ they tackle Brexit, while in ‘Television’ they discuss societal expectations of beauty and tell the listener to love themselves.

But one of the most important songs comes in the form of ‘Samaritans’, a takedown of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity concerns gender roles, culturally considered masculine, which can have a detrimental effect. This includes the pressure for men to be tough and strong, to suppress their emotions. This has a lasting negative effect on their mental health and well-being. The pressures put on men to be the protectors and providers can be overwhelming and, understandably, many crumble under that pressure. ‘Samaritans’ takes a look at the “mask of masculinity” and aims to tear it down, allowing men to express their emotions and feel vulnerable. It’s about teaching men that it’s okay to fight with their words instead of their fists.

Through loud chants, aggressive guitars, and hard-hitting drums, these problems are all laid out in front of the listener. The message feels like it’s being pushed through the speakers at you, as IDLES beg you to listen. A particularly poignant lyric, “This is why you never see your father cry”, shows how this damage is passed on from father to son. IDLES want this cycle to end. The lyrics are demanding and aggressive, giving you no choice but to pay attention.

Suicide rates are highest in middle-aged men because they are the least likely to ask for help. Society has taught them to suppress their emotions and, as the band phrases it, “man up, sit down, chin up, pipe down”. This thinking creates a culture of silence among men and IDLES are sick of being silenced. They’re owning their emotions and wearing them on their sleeves, no longer afraid to confront the things going on in their heads. They’re shouting it on stage, loud and proud. Amidst these admissions of flaws and toxicity, the singer Joe Talbot accepts his vulnerabilities:

“I’m a real boy, boy, and I cry, I love myself, and I want to try.”

Analysing his past mistakes, knowing he fell into a trap of self-destructive behaviour, he takes a stance against it and promises to be someone he himself can love. He’s trying to unlearn these damaging traits and become a healthier, better person.

With Samaritans, IDLES are not preaching, they’re not trying to change the world, they’re just trying to start the conversation.

Luckily for us, they’re bringing the conversation to Ireland twice this year. Firstly, at Vicar Street on April 2nd and then the Iveagh Gardens on July 11th. Tickets for the latter are still on sale and, trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.


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