Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


You remember the old days. The days when you had to slog your way around the country, slowly building a fan base, gradually adding to your sales, before finally getting the breakthrough and getting played on Radio 1, and then maybe, just maybe, being asked to appear on to Top of the Pops. You know the way it was, the way it should be, back in the days before Top of the Pops became such a blatant marketing tool used to peddle any old trash that the record label’s would have trouble shifting without that extra bit of media attention. Well, for Idlewild, that how it still is. While every Tom, Dick and fucking Blink 182 gets pushed onto TFI Friday in the time it takes to say ‘oh, Chris, you’re great, here’s some more money’, instead of paying their bribes; and let’s be honest, just appearing on TFI and repressing the urge to smash the smug fucker in the face and not urinate on his motley collection of sycophants that he routinely wheels out for a chat practically counts as a bribe, they’ve been paying their dues; so their recent burst of television coverage must be seen as something of a triumph, not only for themselves but for music in general.

Compared to a number of bands around at the moment, Idlewild’s Top of the Pops appearance was a long time coming. It seems now that bands are getting pushed onto TV before they’re ready for a record deal, let alone such large-scale national exposure, while you had to wait two years. “With ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ going top 20, we really should have had a bit more television”, suggests bassist Bob Fairfoull. “Things like TFI, Jools Holland and Top of the Pops, we really should have got a wee while ago”.

Did you feel justified in finally getting there? “We’ve had singles that have charted with piss all television”, he says indignantly, “but I think it was about time we got these programmes”. How did you find doing Top of the Pops? “Top of the Pops is a bit strange”, he says, “everything seems to be centred around the audience. They tell the audience exactly where to stand and exactly how many seconds they’re supposed to clap, and if somebody claps out of time you have to do the whole song again”.

Was it odd being on there as a guitar band when so much of the content is now more typically radio-friendly dance music? “Before we went on they had the audience listening to ‘Song 2’ for five minutes”, laughs Bob, “so that they could teach themselves to dance properly to rock music”.

When it came to recording ‘100 Broken Windows’, Idlewild made the unusual decision to work with two different producers, US underground genius Bob Weston, and former Manic Street Preachers producer Dave Eringa. What were the reasons for working with two producers, especially two that are so different from each other? “We’d always wanted to work with Bob. We really admire his work”, explains Bob, “he’s recorded albums with a lot of our favourite bands, and being in Shellac …basically the guy’s a bit of a genius, a kind of god-like character in a way”. “Dave Eringa was kind of a more practical choice”, interjects vocalist Roddy Woomble. “Although we recorded good stuff with Bob Weston, we couldn’t have recorded the whole album with him, Dave kind of focussed it“.

Was it a conscious effort to make it more accessible and commercial? “No, we realised we couldn’t do a whole album with Bob Weston”, Roddy carries on, “it wouldn’t have made sense to anyone, us as well. We needed someone to gel it together”. “It wasn’t so much commercial”, confirms Bob, “it’s just a whole album with Bob …I don’t think the label would have liked it”.

At the time there were a number of rumours going round that there was a great deal of conflict between yourselves and the label. Was the decision to work with Dave Eringa as well as Bob Weston influenced by this at all? “Not really. First we did a session with Bob in London, and it was more our fault than anyone else’s, we weren’t properly focussed,” Bob tries to further clarify the situation. “We didn’t know what it was we were trying to achieve and it didn’t work. Food said it hadn’t worked; we thought about it and they were right. It was nothing to do with Bob. They gave us ample opportunity to work with Bob again. It wasn’t so much a conflict as trial and error”.

Rumours about the supposed conflict had gone so far as to suggest that you’d been dropped by Food, and that Deceptive were going to release the album instead. “Food aren’t in the habit of dropping bands”, sighs Roddy. “Even Jesus Jones and Shampoo are still signed to Food”. “You get these rumours”, adds Bob, “I heard just last week that we were getting dropped last August, but they’re not going to fucking do that if they’re putting out a single in October are they? It’s just bollocks, you get these ridiculous stories”. He continues, laughing again, “it’s like, I’m gay for Christ’s sake …apparently”.

Despite having only been around for a couple of years, Idlewild have already become something of a father figure to other bands, regularly taking unsigned bands out with them for their first taste of national exposure. Seafood’s seemingly never-ending haul around the country started as support to Idlewild, while, more recently, the likes of San Lorenzo and the Starries have been given the opportunity to win new fans outside of their home towns. Is there an intention on your behalf to choose bands with a relatively low media profile for support slots? “Yeah, pretty much”, agrees Bob. “Basically we’ve got a lot of really good friends who are in really good bands, and we believe that they deserve an opportunity. A lot of bands did us favours when we had nothing, and we’re just basically returning the favour”. How far have you thought about taking your patronage of smaller bands? Have you ever considered putting on a larger event, like an all dayer to push them further still? “We tried to do a big gig in Scotland this year”, Roddy shrugs his shoulders, “but it wasn’t very well attended. We’re not popular enough”. Tortoise are already lined up for next years All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Shellac are supposed to have asked for the one after, so maybe you should put your offer in for 2003 now. The grin returns to Roddy’s face. “But we’re not cool enough to get asked to do that”.

And that seems to be the crux of Idlewild’s biggest problem. They seem to be revered and reviled in equal measure in Britain. While some see them as the accessible face of a resurgent underground, others are all too happy to dismiss them as a bunch of undeserving chancers, to discard them for being too pop, not being hardcore enough, and view them as no more credible than the Stereophonics, and it seems that there’s little they can do about it at the moment. Their recent excursion to America has further highlighted this discrepancy. “Over in America we’ve got credible underground status, Bob Weston had some difficulty understanding that we weren’t an underground cool band in Britain, that we’re commercial sell-outs”, explains Bob. “He just didn’t understand it, but that’s the way that some people see it”.

Does it bother you that you’re not always taken so seriously here? Roddy seems unfazed, “there’s no such thing as selling out”. Given that the attitude towards you seems different in America, is it important to you that you’re successful over there? “I suppose so, It’s one of the biggest places in the world so it is important to do well over there”, says Bob. “We’ve only done six or seven shows on the east coast, it was just basically us saying hello”. “Obviously we want to play over there and get a fan-base”, adds Roddy, “but there’s people in the mid-west who haven’t heard of the Beatles. We’ve just to go over there and see what we can do”.

So that’s that for now then. They’ve finally found their way onto our television screens, and are happy to be there, even if it does involve sitting around listening to ‘Song 2’ all day. Half of the rumours you here about them aren’t true, and they couldn’t give a damn what you think of them anyway. For now, it’s back to the festivals, and some time in the near future, America will point their way and beckon once more. And who knows, in their own way, they may even get to be bigger than the Beatles yet.