August 01, 2005

Idlewild - Warnings/Promises

After the huge success of Warnings/Promises following its March release in the UK, Idlewild have decided to take the United States for a spin. Though the rock five-piece are Scottish born and bred, Americans should have no trouble embracing them.

In fact, they take much of their inspiration from classic American rock artists, and recorded the album with producer Tony Hoffer (Air, Beck, The Thrills) at Sunset Sound studios in Los Angeles. Idlewild's frontman Roddy Womble told Under the Radar in the summer of 2004, "A lot of groups come from Los Angeles that I really like, specifically a lot of what we were listening to at the time we were writing songs," and he cited Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and The Byrds. While the album does not sound like any of the aforementioned groups, it inadvertently captures the spirit of California.

On their fifth studio album, Idlewild have a different lineup and a more mature sound. They have stopped listening to record executives trying to turn them into the next Coldplay or Radiohead, and have begun to pave a path all their own. However, this road has not been easy. Womble explained in 2004, "There's a lot of people [in America] that really love the band, but our record isn't promoted properly, so it doesn't sell that many copies and there's not any money put in it." The August release by Capitol shows that the record label is finally shining a light on Idlewild.

"Love Steals Us From Loneliness" is immediately gripping, with its heavy intro and sarcastic Smiths-like lyrical tone. It could easily be the next anthem of urban, angst-ridden teens everywhere. "Welcome Home" shows a softer side, and follows a traditional sing-song structure of light intro, guitar breakdown, and harmonic end. They alternate between vocal harmony and arena rock guitar, demonstrating versatility and comfort with varying structures. "I Understand It" and "As If I Hadn't Slept" both combine pop sensibilities with alternative tradition, making for light and sunny, yet reflective compositions. Idlewild's roots in punk rock are still apparent, despite their contemporary fold tendencies. For those who crave the pure wailing of electric guitars, look no further than "Too Long Awake."

As with many big-label albums, Warnings/Promises feels a little overproduced, however, this could be a result of listening to too many K Records releases. On the other hand, the raw sound of Idlewild's roots overpowers any studio addition of strings and harmonies, solidifying the album's longevity.

Warnings/Promises takes a slow hold on your subconscious, until you find yourself mumbling "love shields us from loneliness" while you're buying your morning coffee. "It's kind of one of those records that's like the more you hear it, the more you like it," Womble said. Frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way.

Click here to buy Warnings/Promises, due out on August 16 on Capitol Records

Related articles:
Idlewild to Tour US