Documentary Review: Don’t Go Gentle // IDLES

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Don’t Go Gentle echoes Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, an ardent poem encouraging the reader not to go gently into death. The adjective ‘gentle’ connotes as quiet, careful and compliant, all of which IDLES are not. Thomas’ poem accepts that death cannot be avoided, but can be confronted. IDLES take this statement and condemn the government and society on their actions; it is inevitable that we have our government for four more years, but that doesn’t mean we can’t challenge them. Beginning with their formation in Bristol by frontman Joe Talbot and bassist Adam Devonshire, their story progresses by recruiting lead guitarist Mark Bowen, drummer Jon Beavis and guitarist Lee Kiernan. With debut album Brutalism in 2017 paving the way to 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance, they have gradually become the most notorious name in a modern subculture destined greater than punk.

After all these years in Rock and Roll, all we needed was brutal honesty from an angry looking man in Bristol

Steve Lamacq

No One is an Island

“Progressive music, as a title, should be seen as inventing shit. We’re not inventing shit, we’re just being ourselves”, frontman Joe Talbot declares. The whole aura surrounding Talbot is terrifyingly, beautifully frustrated; so peaceful yet so pissed off.

IDLES begin as a group of friends who just enjoy playing together, until they become the furiously fearless leaders they are today. Live footage of Mark Bowen jumping on Beavis’ drum kit and throwing himself into the audience, Talbot lying across the stage screeching into his microphone; perfervid emotions that soar beyond punk and form an ultra-subgenre that makes punk cower in the corner. Unmentioned is Balley Records, a label founded by Talbot and manager Mark Bent. Yet with famous Balley face Danny Nedelko of Heavy Lungs sporting ‘No One is an Island’ and LIFE frontman Mez Green’s “it’s about being human”, the punk community displays further sentiment with IDLES plastered at the heart.

AF Gang

Lindsay Melbourne founded AF Gang, a Facebook community for IDLES fans. Melbourne tells us of her past experiences and how “IDLES were helping in some way”. The significance of community is particularly predominant; those who are very active in the IDLES community relay their first time hearing them as if they’d just been woken up.

The AF Gang is perhaps the most punk aspect of the documentary. People share deep, personal stories with strangers and are met with love, support and safety. ‘Mother’ protests that “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”, but IDLES have proved themselves wrong. By being at the centre of such a close-knit community, connection through music allows people to no longer feel alone. They constantly advocate for rights, all connected by openness and relatability. “It’s triggered something, something special. I’m inspired, I needed it in my life” says fan Matt Day, acquitting a therapeutic, almost medicinal aspect. The spectacular perfervid reaction to IDLES is beautifully apt. With discrimination and isolation avowed in our society, inclusion by such a sincere group is striking.

Relatability

With Steve Lamacq sending former Maccabees guitarist Felix White their tape, White’s Yala! Records invited them in. With IDLES joining the Maccabees on their final tour, tragedy struck when Talbot’s daughter, Agatha, passed away. “You worry that you’re a burden on people if you share your emotions”, expresses Talbot. “I had to stop separating band and personal life”, which is exactly how IDLES provide the closeness of community that they do.

Joe Talbot, IDLES frontman, performing at Glastonbury in 2019

The raw emotion, the strength in their darkness inspires others to carry on. While recording Brutalism, the deaths of both Talbot and Devonshire’s mothers devastates. “I just focused on me in the wrong way”, states Devonshire, with Talbot conveying “I messed up a plethora of relationships because of neglect, but I would never neglect the band”. The importance of the band for one another stresses the significance of a supporting community; you don’t have to feel alone. Community and inspiring aside, IDLES are the true leaders in modern music. Laying out their emotions, being nothing but honest and standing up for what is right, they embody security, beauty, truth and humbleness to name a few. They revolutionise a new type of genre where punk looks as useless as mainstream pop.

Inclusion: “We Are Fucking Right”

“We were constantly getting, “you’re not right.” That’s the whole point of what we’re saying is that everyone’s being told they’re not right. And we are fucking right because we’re being ourselves”. Talbot’s revulsion is undoubtedly an emotion we’ve all experienced. They become more and more relatable for not being accepted, yet another familiarity in today’s society.

“Everyone feels like they’re ugly and everyone feels like they’re not intelligent enough for their job. Everyone feels like they’re under-performing because everyone’s telling them they’ve got to be perfect. That’s unnatural.”

Joe Talbot

Knowing that others feel the same as you is perhaps the most wonderful feeling in the world. Comprehending that you aren’t alone, that you aren’t alone in feeling this way. Knowing that there are people out there who can put into words what you feel you can’t. What you see as vulnerability, others see as strength. IDLES are magical, and that’s why Don’t Go Gentle is a masterpiece. An explosion of honest feeling that allows you to not be afraid of what goes on inside your own head. “Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain, pain leads to anger, anger leads hate”. Despite this lyric being from ‘Danny Nedelko’ about immigration, the mental health theme coincides. How we fear our own minds, panicking that we’re alone, becoming angry for being different and as a result, hating ourselves. IDLES turn this mindset around, AF Gang turn this around.

Finding strength in vulnerability and the importance of community are what IDLES perfectly preach. Don’t Go Gentle is the most heartfelt, touching portrayal of friendship and fragility accompanied with impassioned heavy performances of inclusion for those who feel lost. IDLES are at the heart of revolutionary music, inspiring change and lives everywhere. Don’t Go Gentle is the message we’ve all been needing: vulnerability is strength, emotion is courage. IDLES are revolutionary, and there’s an entire community proving that they inspire nothing but greatness.

Don’t Go Gentle is only available to stream until 14th June

Words by Erin Allwood

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