Artist: Idlewild
Label: Parlophone
Release Date: 15 July 2002
Cat No: 5402430

Track listing:

  1. You Held the World in Your Arms
  2. A Modern Way of Letting Go
  3. American English
  4. I Never Wanted
  5. (I Am)What I Am Not
  6. Live In A Hiding Place
  7. Out of Routine
  8. Century After Century
  9. Tell Me Ten Words
  10. Stay The Same
  11. In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction

The Remote Part is the fourth album from Scottish Indie noisemakers Idlewild. Recorded over the last 14 months during bouts of touring America, it's a development from its predecessor 100 Broken Windows, and, unusually for a breakthrough album, is actually a darned fine piece of work.

Early recordings for the album were made with Stephen Street at the production helm, but the band weren't entirely happy with the way the songs were, or weren't, hanging together. After a series of confidence-boosting acoustic shows, and an inspirational meeting with Lenny Kaye (guitarist with Patty Smith), the band returned to the studio, this time with Dave Eringa, who produced 100 Broken Windows, and this time they were ready.

The effects of the acoustic experiences are plain to see. Where Idlewild used to be raw, unkempt - live affairs in my experience tended to be about seeing how much you could drown the vocals beneath a sea of power chords - you can now hear the songwriting coming through. The influences are still as apparent as they used to be, though; it's hard not to listen to most of The Remote Part without trying to figure out who it sounds like. Review comparisons so far have included R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Fugazi, U2, The Smiths, but heck, I'll add Teenage Fanclub (on "I never wanted"), Placebo (in a general, and not derogatory way, on "Out of routine"), christ maybe even Mansun. And I swear I thought I heard Paul Linehan (of The Frank and Walters no less) singing part of one track. Basically, it sounds like a bunch of guys with guitars (is it too late to drop Muse into the mix?), and they're gonna use them. I've never had a problem with bands showing their influences, and the joy of Idlewild is that they blow all your baby blink182 clones out of the water. This is far better than the sum of all those parts.

I could go on, but I doubt you want to hear more about C-list indie bands. So, the album itself. What's it like? Does it rock? Well, frankly, yes. In a semi-mellow way, it rocks. Right from the off, with "You held the world in your arms" (and stone me, but I've given up trying to think which song it sounds exactly like) the octane is high, pushed up further through the splenetic-frenetic two minutes of "A modern way of letting go", and then suddenly you can breathe, take it easy through "American English" while the band cover U2 guitars with the sound of Every Scottish Indie Band, Ever. "I never wanted" and "Tell me ten words" are the subtler alter egos of the album's opener, riffs overlay choruses, daring you not to sing along. And is that a mandolin I can hear in the background? It surely is. This is the new sound of Idlewild. It's not that different, just more refined. And before it's all over, they show that you can even get away with rehashing the same sounds/ideas again with "Stay the same", hauled into greatness by a J. Mascis styled guitar solo.

Already you've reached closing track "in remote part/scottish fiction", which couples a touching lyric "I'll wait till I find the remote part of your heart/ nowhere else will let us choose a comfortable start" with a narrative from Scots Poet Laureate Edwin Morgan. It closes the album and wraps up the themes; in the words of lead singer Roddy Woomble,

"The common thread of the record is definitely identity...the fact that people are so keen to attach themselves to something. They feel Scotland's a more legitimate place to be from. I was thinking, if you're from America, why not be happy?"

You'll find The remote Part at any half-decent retailer, and in all the album of the year lists come December.


Further reading:
  • www.idlewild.co.uk
  • http://www.nme.com/reviews/10703.htm
  • http://www.virginmegamagazine.com/default.asp?aid=8AF

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