A briskly cold Edinburgh evening is a ghostly host to an exclusive first listen to Idlewild’s long-awaited new album, ‘Everything Ever Written’.
In an upstairs space which looked frighteningly like a school gymnasium at Summerhall, a prominent arts centre near the centre of the city, a healthy handful of eager fans and music bods are generally left to their own devices. A pop-up up bar is made available at which to sample a special collaboration with Barney’s Pale Ale for the band-endorsed beer named Scottish Fiction IPA; a happy nod to the triumphant closing track of their career-defining album, ‘The Remote Part’. Exclusive merchandise is briefly available (it was snapped up almost immediately) and the quirky album art is projected high above near the rafters of the lofty hall.
It is so high in fact, that many might not have noticed that the advertised album release date was actually incorrect, until long-time Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones jokingly pointed it out. Though it is an indication of the impromptu nature of this listening party (this event was only announced on the January 28th), it also helps underline the relaxed atmosphere of the event- a friendly free gift for curious fans who have undoubtedly enjoyed various eras of Idlewild’s evolution.
So, on to the new album then. Without fanfare or dramatics, the album was played over the PA system, and though a dedicated few stand and listen intently until the last note, the pull of the party draws many back into socialising mode. Soundsphere however, manages to stick it out and enjoyed the unique activity – like an amplified version of standing in HMV and sampling an album without the headphones. Without a live band to enjoy, or indeed any members of Idlewild prominently visible, arty shots of the band playing live and recording the new album are projected on loop throughout the album’s premiere.
‘Everything Ever Written’ is a mature piece of work that continues to toe the line between Idlewild’s headier days of punk rock and their later albums which unveiled poetic strands and acoustic melody. Twenty years has been kind, allowing the band to indulge their past with abrasive guitars (in album opener ‘Collect Yourself’ and ‘Come On Ghost’) and further explore their canny knack for folk which has grown in stature since 2002.
Moments of Americana and catchy lines scattered throughout will continue to see Idlewild be a sing-along favourites at festivals, while Roddy Woomble’s still youthful tones makes the album feel like it’s from a band who have never been away.
A civilised evening for ale drinkers and music fans alike, it is clear that just as Idlewild grew up, so did its audience. ‘Everything Ever Written’ is an enjoyable record from a band that still has lots to give – they just might not be seeing as many shapes anymore.