Joy As An Act Of Resistance *****

BRISTOL punk rock outfit Idles follow up their acclaimed debut Brutalism with a ferocious attack on toxic masculinity, racism and television's enforcement of negative body image. Singer Joe Talbot's acerbic lyrics make you laugh and think in equal measure and somehow include references ranging from Labour MP Dennis Skinner to actor Tom Hiddleston's stylist. Drummer Jon Beavis' ominous stick work on opener Colossus are reminiscent of a train chugging down a track that's about to run you over. When the break comes the album bursts into life as Talbot screams: "I put homophobes in coffins". The catchy Danny Nedelko, a celebration of immigrants, shines as this summer's unlikely radio hit. I'm Scum sounds like if Elvis did a punk song as Talbot sneers about James Bond being a "murderous toff". The song Great puts the boot into the Brexiteer fetish for blue passports.

Idles succeed in expressing a delicate vulnerability through powerful and savage means.

Andrew Arthur

The Kooks

Let's Go Sunshine ****

LET'S Go Sunshine is a somewhat ironic title for The Kooks' fifth album, as anyone would summarise their indie pop offerings as, well, sunshiney by default. But the band has matured. They have left behind the tales and music of optimistic millennials from their early 20s, and have regenerated as hard-edged men who have lived. The record is a product of a four-year gap since their previous album, forming the basis for how well considered it is. The Kooks have graduated from their original style, yet have managed to sound individual with a grown-up edge. There is an abundance of acoustic guitar, at parts similar to a ukulele, a nod back to the '06 era of whimsical post-punk from which they came. In parts the guitar signals the classic Britpop sound. There are upbeat basslines and catchy hooks but, most importantly, the overall effect is melancholy. This is cleverly done, as The Kooks don't stray too far away from their original style, but some echoey vocals and fragmented guitar riffs create a discreet wistfulness.

There's one thing about The Kooks, they know how to write a good love song. Their most ardent fans will not be disappointed.

Sophie Goodall


Runaway ***

IT would perhaps be slightly uncharitable to label this as the seventh album from a one-hit wonder, but Passenger, aka Michael Rosenberg, has struggled to ever replicate the enormous success of his 2014 Ivor Novello Award-winner Let Her Go. While Runaway is a pleasant enough set, there is nothing here that appears likely to change that. The penultimate song To Be Free comes closest, a dreamy piano-led ballad recounting his father's life and travels and his own attempts to connect with his history.

Passenger's musical background is as a busker and those who originally encountered him out of the blue in that context would have been blown away, the paradox is that as a professional artist, much of his work fails to stand out from the crowd.

Tom White

Darwin Deez

10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart ****

DARWIN DEEZ, a New York purveyor of joyous indie pop, is often written off as a gimmick: songs too catchy to be serious, too goofy to be artful. But beyond the sing-along singles and viral videos which brought him success, Deez is a masterful writer of pop songs and a vastly under-rated musician. Both talents are immediately apparent on his fourth record, 10 Songs That Happened When You Left Me With My Stupid Heart.

The snatched staccato chords, guitar solos and lyrics which sway between sardonic and sincere are all still here. The skittering electronic beats and beep and buzz of synthesizers hinted at on previous albums now have a greater maturity. And the stand-out tracks, which bookend the album, suggest this is an artist with a lot more musical space to explore, and a lot more talent than he is often given credit for.

It's worth checking Deez out when he tours in the UK in early October.

Alastair Reid

Menace Beach

Black Rainbow Sound ****

THE idea of a black rainbow is apocalyptic and heretical, signalling change unforetold and harrowing. Much like Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Bowie's jungle period, or Take That covering Nirvana at Earls Court.

On their third album, Leeds-based band Menace Beach set aside their reputation for fuzz-festooned indie rock and embrace the synthesiser. When Liza Violet, one half of Menace Beach's core partnership, summoned a fresh aesthetic it was founded on her hunch there was "too much reality in the sound of a guitar". The soft-voiced Violet and fellow mainstay Ryan Needham, whose vocals at times recall the drawl of J Mascis, are joined on this record's title track by Brix Smith, formerly of The Fall. They deliver a driving, pounding mission statement that sees a guitar riff swiftly give way to a heavy kosmische groove. Comparable in places to Hookworms' recent album Microshift, Menace Beach's third is a pointed step out of their comfort zone. It bears influences of the likes of Broadcast and Kraftwerk, but Menace Beach project their own haunting perspective.

John Skilbeck