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Idlewild | The Remote Part (Parlophone)
It might be hard to convince people that they're more than just noise merchants, especially as You Held The World In Your Arms blusters in like the Tasmanian devil in a bad mood. The song races along, barely pausing for breath in the chorus and taking no prisoners. So much for tenderness, you say. There are still no hostages for A Modern Way Of Letting Go, sounding like the Foo Fighters at their most violent. But listen closely... there's a melody there that won't go away, beneath the driving guitars there is harmony and tune and Roddy Woomble sings and snarls, but he does so with emotion. Then comes the defining moment. American English strums in as innocent as you like. It takes a while for your ears to adjust to the sudden tempo shift and all the while the song is building up momentum, rumbling along behind a gorgeous chorus and getting up a good head of steam. It doesn't explode though, it takes off, soaring away as Roddy's voice rises in pitch and intensity. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece. From this moment on you won't think of this band as a bunch of noisy upstarts. Just to prove that it's not a fluke track they keep a mellow mood going for I Never Wanted which swirls around with a buzzing guitar in all the right places. Maybe it's the spectre of a third album being seen as the 'difficult' one that has made them explore their tender side more. Whatever, it's worked. They've hinted at this part of themselves before, but this time they're out to show the world what a force they can be and they do it in fine style. When they want to rock, they turn it up and Roddy screams like no other - notably on Out Of Routine, but they're equally adept at dropping it down to head straight for the heart. As (I Am) What I Am Not skids to a halt then Live in A Hiding Place wafts in, breaking into a sweat only for the chorus, but still retaining the delicate guitar underpinning. The transition from soft to loud can be abrupt and will certainly keep you awake, but it seems well balanced, adding interest to an album that is already capable of holding anyone's attention. They even display their influences clearly, Century After Century could be the son of the Man Who Sold The World and Tell Me Ten Words has the letters R.E.M. running through it's core. Those letters can be heard throughout and have always been a part of the Idlewild sound, but this album shows that they have listened and learned from the masters, rather than just blatantly ripping them off. There is such a depth to this record that it's hard to imagine that this was a band who I once vowed never to see or listen to again. As they close with In A Remote Part/Scottish Fiction with its sampled radio broadcast, the soaring guitars crumble to leave a lone piano, and you can't help think that far from it being in their arms, the world is now firmly at their feet.

Laurence Arnold
August 2002