On Wednesday 23 May, Bristol punk band IDLES kicked off the new Dr. Martens Bath store launch with a bang, in collaboration with Brew Dog who kindly provided refreshments throughout the night. A few of us from milk went along to welcome Dr. Martens to the city and experience what IDLES had to offer.
The Dr. Martens brand has a self-proclaimed history of ‘rebellious self-expression’, and what better way to show the people of Bath than with the help of IDLES, who stand for just that. With music genres like grunge and metal adopting the DM boot as part of their look in the 1990s, Dr. Martens remain an icon of the music scene and regularly stage free gigs for their store launches, as well as performances at the ‘Boot Room’ in Camden.
At the Bath launch gig, it became clear very quickly that IDLES are politically charged and not afraid to show it. “We talk about political things in the pub, so it would be weird if we didn’t sing about it,” commented lead guitarist Mark Bowen in an interview with Loud and Quiet. Between songs, frontman Joe Talbot took care to introduce each one but kept the audience laughing, reminding us that it’s alright to laugh and dance in the face of adversity.
In their Bristol 24/7 interview, the band explored how their chosen genre of punk rock allow them to write and sing about political topics, and they acknowledge their white male privilege as something which enables them to do this without a huge backlash. “It’s really difficult for women to be heard without it being a problem for some people. It’s really unfair but sadly true.”
Their latest album, Brutalism, is inspired by the architectural movement of the same name. It reflects their minimalist songwriting, yet harsh, passionate delivery. The third track, ‘Mother’, really stands out as one of their classically liberal songs. It’s an ode to Joe’s late mother who worked extremely hard and perhaps didn’t get the respect she deserved for it in her lifetime. Joe comments “without my Mum I would be fucking dead!”and shows how much he (and the rest of the band) cares about gender equality.
Despite the often eye-opening subject matter, IDLES’ performance was dynamic and enjoyable, even for those coming to the band with a fresh pair of ears. They interacted with their audience, and refused to neglect those listening outside who weren’t able to squeeze into the shop. IDLES definitely slot nicely into the varied subcultures that the Dr. Martens brand has called home since the 70s.
Pop along to the Bath Dr. Martens store on Union Street, opposite WHSmiths, and check out IDLES’ website to listen to their music and find out about upcoming tour dates.