#31: Idlewild – Actually It’s Darkness (2000)
The chemistry of the three minute single. The filter through which music is viewed as a series of overblown, headphone-clad pronouncements, the mechanics of attraction (welcome to Lazer Guided Melody, the music blog where you’re never more than four minutes and thirty-three seconds away from pretentious proclamation – and yes, that’s a joke for the John Cage fans out there). Today’s Festive Fifty entry is a case in point; an array of sound that fosters an emotional connection, elements that expand beyond the confines of verse chorus verse. As befits any collection of favourite songs, ‘Actually It’s Darkness’ (for all of its indie anthem leanings) represents a time and place, context imprinted above the fuzzy melody. But such is the track’s warmth and intelligently-attuned energy, it would be a mistake to infer that this is little more than generic indie noise enhanced by notions of nostalgia.
Later, and Idlewild’s scope increased, the sound grew more polished and radio-friendly, and much of the lustre was lost. But their first two full-length albums – 1998’s Hope Is Important and the millennial follow-up 100 Broken Windows – both harbour an intriguing sense of equilibrium, something that’s epitomised in the song below the words. This balance is a finely structured affair, individual components of the song’s dynamic tenderly entwined; the fragility of the vocal compliments the raucousness of the guitars, the tendency to embrace catchy (and commercial) pop sentiment is reigned in by a vivaciousness of momentum, by a subversive sheen that underpins the wordplay. The youthful exuberance on display is delicately framed, sentiment that, if not exactly addressing the listener, does draw him or her closer with its implication of dialogue. And beyond all that, I’d argue that this particular track succeeds via a perceptible vulnerability. It’s a record that isn’t self-celebratory – rather, it’s one whose sensitivity is embedded within the narrative, neither flaunted or obscured but left to infiltrate the overall effect – which is ultimately what makes this special – the mechanics of attraction.
Idlewild / Actually It’s Darkness