Roddy Woomble has one of the coolest names in rock. So why is it that not many American have heard of him, nor his Scottish band, Idlewild? A good portion of their albums, despite their modicum of success in the UK, have never been released in the states. Latest release Warnings / Promises was released over five months ago in the UK and is only now seeing the light of day in America! After the band’s last release, The Remote Part, the restrictions on the catalog started to loosen, but this five month delay thing has got to go. Warnings / Promises finds Idlewild settling in its place among the alternative heavyweights such as U2, REM, and Coldplay. Yes, they are that good, even if you may never have heard them before.
Their name taken from Anne of Green Gables, Idlewild has been making music since 1995 when they formed in Edinburgh. Ten years ago, they began to play punk-driven alternative music, yet over time, with band members coming and going, their style has softened and mellowed, yielding a more mature and confident sound that is purely Idlewild. Like countrymen Snow Patrol, the band languished in, at least to America, obscurity until, well, just recently. But not having released an album in 3 years can even hurt the most popular of bands. Luckily, Idlewild has created in Warnings / Promises an album for the pop rock ages. Lending a hand to create the album are singer Inara George, lending her sweet voice to four tracks, and Greg Leisz, playing what seems to be the instrument of the day, the pedal steel, on two tracks.
“Love Steals Us from Loneliness” is the first song and first single from the album. While some may be reminded of Deep Blue Something’s catchy but forgettable hit, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with the “I said / you said” theme and similar sounding chorus, most will not be fooled by cosmetic likenesses. The music is full and accomplished, tight and driven. “I Understand It” and “El Capitan” followed as singles from the album, but there are so many marketable singles on this album such as the Frames-like “Welcome Home,” the harder “I Want a Warning,” and the ambitious “Too Long Awake.” By the way, it takes some balls to cut the most soaring song on the album and cut it short with an electronic tape stop to immediately start the next song. “Not Just Sometimes but Always” is the song immediately following, and is a worthy ballad with only slight echoes of Green Day’s ubiquitous “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”
Most reviews will end up throwing in the REM and U2 comparisons as I have. The difference is that most of them will say that “I Understand It” is an REM-like cut and “The Space Between All Things” has Edge guitars surrounding it. While these happen to be true, the real reason for my comparison lies elsewhere. Both U2 and REM lifted themselves out of college rock obscurity to heights of super stardom only to have critics, save a select few, trash everything they’ve done since they `sold out.’ The same is happening with Coldplay. It is suddenly ‘uncool’ to like not only X&Y, but any one of their former releases which were at one time underground and cool. Sure, maybe REM sacrificed a little bit of rootsy-ness in favor of a stadium sound, and maybe U2 exchanged a Van Morrison-meets-the-Ramones sound for American politics and drama, but each one gained a lot more in the process as they matured. So too has Idlewild and with Warnings / Promises, the proof is in the pudding.