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100 Broken Windows

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: 100 Broken Windows

Artist: Idlewild
Genre: Rock
Release Date: March 2001

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Idlewild is a young Scottish band whose members met at Edinburgh University but their sound is based on American post punk rock. Idlewild's most obvious influence is early REM. Except for the accent, they sound like Live, Buffalo Tom, Toad The Wet Sprocket and a number of other serious bands that worship the boys from Athens, GA. There's also a little of The Cure's more poppy rockers in Idlewild's dense, often pessimistic work. Still, 100 Broken Windows is varied and consistently good.

The REM song Idlewild reminds me of most is the assautive Orange Crush. On Little Discourage, Rod Jones does a catchy guitar doodle on the verses and then lets loose a good, heavy guitar barrage on the chorus. Roddy Woomble doesn't have Michael Stipe's supple voice but his singing helps build the song's intensity. Listen To What You've Got is propelled forward by furiously fast guitar and Colin Newman's drumming as Woomble sings of bad dreams and the message that if you listen to what you've got, you realize you've got nothing. Idlewild have a bunch of songs with good, dramatic intensity but they're often awfully serious and heavy and not much fun. I Don't Have The Map is about feeling like "I'm on an island." Over a good, slicing guitar line, Woomble screams, "you can't cope without the contact." Very serious vocals and guitars create a bleak mood on Rusty. The songs generally evoke a sense of alienation. On These Wooden Ideas, over driving guitar, Woomble sings that the better, "post modern" way to feel is not to be real. The fragmented, often obscure lyrics recall REM's early work. Sometimes the obscurity is a little showy. Roseability mostly seems like an excuse to show off that the band has heard of Gertrude Stein and her "a rose is a rose" quote.

100 Broken Windows is often best when the band loosens up. On Idea Track, Woomble gets things going nicely with a punky yell: "your grave, it's your grave." The song segues well into poppy harmonies and Jones' big, full guitar sound. The brighter sounding Mistake Pageant, Let Me Sleep(Next To The Mirror) and Actually It's Darkness are among my favorite songs on the CD. Mistake Pageant has textured guitars like Peter Buck used to play on Reckoning and warm harmonies. Woomble sings that he can't mock another's failed party since "I know what it feels like to have bad luck." Actually It's Darkness is delightful. Over a sprightly guitar line, the song alternates verses with humble, flat Billy Bragg style singing and a chorus that yells a good natured dig: "you shed a shade of shyness, why can't you be more cynical." Let Me Sleep is a similarly appealing mix of modest vocals and upbeat music. 100 Broken Windows finishes well with The Bronze Medal, a ballad that reminds me of Sebadoh's Willing To Wait. There's a nicely stripped down sound, with minimal guitar and piano, as Woomble sadly sings about someone with "nothing but determination to come in third."

100 Broken Windows is sometimes a little dark for my taste but it's an interesting, good sounding records. Rod Jones is a skilled guitarist, creating rich, evocative soundscapes. The songs are always at least good and the more luminous songs are great. Idlewild's a little harder and more rocking but the comparison with very early REM is still appropriate. Idlewild don't have the gift of Michael Stipe's vocal but, sounding like they're still learning how to put a song together, they often achieve striking sonic results.



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