Idlewild – Warnings/Promises

It’s nothing truly ground breaking or innovative, but it is what it is and that’s very entertaining.

It’s nothing truly ground breaking or innovative, but it is what it is and that’s very entertaining.


Once upon a time in a record store I found a little red book. On the back of the little red book was a door. When you opened the book a bright white light shone out from within its pages.


No, Idlewild’s new album cover doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that doesn’t matter because it’s rather lovely, in its own way. It’s certainly not ugly and it has a kind of strange but gentle charm to it, which is rather apt because that’s pretty much how I’d describe Idlewild’s music. Their songs have been nice enough to make me tap my feet and occasionally they’ve even managed to write a chorus or two that I’ve wanted to sing along to. They’ve never made an album that I’ve gotten really excited about, or something that’s made me think they’re the best thing since sliced bread, but I certainly didn’t approach Warnings/Promises with a sense of trepidation. In fact I was rather looking forward to hearing it.


And to begin with I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with it. The opening track Love steals us from loneliness seems to begin half way through. Its “Woah oh oh oh” beginning should surely be heard about 2 and a half minutes in? At least that’s what the rock’n’roll guidelines have taught us, isn’t it? It takes you by surprise and makes you feel like the CD player may need a clean, but then the “Woah oh oh oh” bit comes back in later on to reassure you. It’s actually quite a canny little song and even though the title is rather daft, they get away with it, because it’s placed in the lyrics as such: “You said something stupid like/ love steals us from loneliness” and that kind of lets them off the hook somewhat. Elsewhere, unfortunately, they drop themselves back into the dodgy lyrics category with lines like “don’t tell me you’re afraid of the past / it’s only the future that didn’t last.” In fact, there are lines like this strewn all over the album, “you smile without smiling for a whole other year,” (Welcome Home) is a good one, as is ‘laughter smiles back in your direction / but you’re protected by the smoke from your cigarette.” (As if I hadn’t slept) It’s not that they’re bad as such, just a bit dodgy. They sum it up rather well themselves on As if I hadn’t slept actually, when they say “ït’s far too vague to be meaningful.”


But if I sound like I’m being a little too picky, then I probably am. To be honest it was the music that disappointed me most though, at least to begin with. Love steals us from loneliness is good, but it’s not great. Welcome Home is nice and I quite enjoy tapping my foot along to it, but it never gets really exciting. Despite the screeching guitars, pounding drums and distorted vocals I want a warning never ups the tempo enough to be really exhilarating and this kind of, “It’s OK, but nothing special,” attitude stuck with me through the first half of the album.


Then, once the white noise that’s wrapped around Too Long Awake finally calmed down, things suddenly changed for the better. Not just sometimes but always started off good and actually got better. It has some really nice strings on it and is the type of song that demands a large group of people to sing along with it. It’ll sound great live. The space between all things is sharp and contains a welcome dose of bile and contempt and is, simply put, a great song. El Captain’s intro slows things down somewhat, but it steadily picks up the pace through the first verse and then explodes with some pounding drums into one of the best chorus sections they’ve ever written. When you hear it you can just imagine how cool this will sound with a few thousand people clapping along. Blame it on the obvious ways keeps the momentum going. It bubbles along at a steady rate without ever really turning up the heat, but damn is it catchy. Sadly Disconnected goes all Nashville on us, which unsettles the flow of the album a little bit. That’s not to say it’s a bad song, I just think it would sound more at home with the rest of the ‘ok but nothing special’ stuff at the start of the album. Goodnight rounds things off, as you’d expect a song with that kind of title to, and it may just be the best song on the album.


It begins with some gentle six-string strumming and some delicate harmonies, which are very nice indeed but about ninety seconds in it all kicks off. Drums and bells appear from nowhere (the type that are normally applied to Christmas songs) and the band do some masterful “Woah oh oh” vocal work before a really scratchy guitar joins the mix to build up the energy some more. Then, at about the 3 minute mark, just when you’re thinking how fantastic it is, it all collapses back into that gentle guitar strumming and Roddy fades things out by repeating the word ‘goodnight’ over and over. It’s a great closing track.


Warnings/Promises is a good album, excellent in parts but at first it felt like a bunch of songs rather than a cohesive album. Then, however, I realized that its running order feels a lot like a set list for a gig. They open up with something exciting, play a few average songs to work the band up a bit, then reel off a bunch of classics before finishing with an encore that’s truly marvelous, just to send everyone home in a happy mood.


I suppose all I’ve got left to say is that I’d definitely recommend you check it out. It’s nothing truly ground breaking or innovative, but it is what it is and that’s very entertaining. Rather like everything else that Idlewild have done in the past, it’s rather lovely, in its own way.


Words : Damian Leslie