WHEN English post-punk band Idles found global success with their thrilling second album Joy As An Act Of Resistance in 2018 it was courtesy of frontman Joe Talbot's relatable expression of his inner turmoil.
Last year's Ultra Mono changed course. Talbot seemingly accepted the mantle of preacher, the disenfranchised rock voice of his generation as he targeted right-wing haters and apologists, most notably on the single Model Village.
Idles' fourth album in four years, Crawler, sees Talbot return to a more external focus about his battles with addiction and depression.
"Crawling hurts, but it works for me," Talbot sings about the constant struggle of overcoming addiction in the title track.
While Talbot's focus has shifted back, his Idles bandmates have taken the music in a new direction. The punk immediacy of Ultra Mono has been rejected by the Bristol five-piece in favour of brooding minimalism.
The opener MTT 420 RR begins with haunting synths as Talbot mournfully recounts the story of a near-fatal motorcycle crash he was involved in. Here Idles show new-found constraint.
On previous albums they would have turned MTT 420 RR into a cacophony of guitar noise, but they deny that easy fix.
Progress another tender experiment with EDM.
The grindcore-inspired Car Crash is the album's most experimental moment. Adam Devonshire's pulsating bass, Jon Beavis' thumping drums and Mark Bowen's wailing guitar meet Talbot's spit-fire vocal head on.
However, it's the soulful The Beachland Ballroom where Idles display how far they've progressed from their debut album Brutalism.
The track sways along with Talbot's prettiest vocal to date, before exploding into a blood-curdling chorus of "damage, damage, damage." It's simultaneously fragile and brutal. It sums up Idles at their best.
Like all Idles albums Crawler would benefit with editing. Wizz and King Snake offer little.
Overall, Crawler is a triumph and another reason why Idles continue to be one of the UK's most exciting and important bands.