An exciting new film celebrates the career of one of England’s wildest bands
Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES is the opposite of the prescriptive band-focused music documentary.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
At a tight 75 minutes, it plays more like a British sketch comedy television program than an endless talking heads-plus-archival footage nostalgia-fest. IDLES haven’t been around long enough to get retrospective—even if Don’t Go Gentle looks like a punk rock Betamax tape unearthed from the late ‘70s, albeit with slightly better resolution.
IDLES’ origin story is told in a blend of oral histories from various hirsute band members. It’s this very individualist take on facial hair that’s the real connective tissue of this band, who are a collection of characters. The interviews have the feel of grabbing whoever you can in a band in between their festival set and the catering tent and asking them a few hurried questions with the PA going full-blast in the background. Not that anyone in this band is avoiding answering anything. Quite the opposite.
Like all things IDLES, there is a raw honesty in their responses that reveal a lot about where their bold songs come from and what was going on in their lives when they were writing them. Their colorful personalities, unique histories and sometimes painful family situations paint vivid stories. The sharing of these personal accounts is particularly difficult to hear when it’s from vocalist Joe Talbot. He leaves nothing out when he speaks about losing his baby and going back on tour instead of dealing with it, resulting in more drinking and suppressing of his feelings, until he, “had to stop separating band and personal life.” There are some bursts of humorous relief courtesy of dentist-turned-guitarist Mark Bowen who does his interviews in a (is it inflatable?) tub with bath and pool toys bobbing around.
Although the group formed in 2009, it took a few false-ish starts with some EPs before they ramped up at whiplash speed with their exceedingly well-received debut album, Brutality in 2017. That album and the its follow-ups: Joy as an Act of Resistance and Ultra Mono connected with fans across the globe.
For all the aggression that is released at IDLES’ gigs, both by the band and its audience, there is an underlying and overarching feeling of looking after one another that holds both the people on stage, and off, together. Particular focus is put on AF Gang, the online community formed around IDLES. AF Gang, founded by Lindsay Melbourne, who is extensively interviewed in the documentary, has grown beyond band appreciation and into a genuine support system for its members.
Melbourne is one of the executive producers of the film, as well as the photographer. Don’t Go Gentle is directed and shot by another fan of the band, Mark Archer. It’s apt that the film is made by fans of IDLES as that is ultimately who the film is made for: their fans. Knowing its audience has made the approach toward Don’t Go Gentle all the more considered, as if its creators kept close to heart what Talbot states at one point in the film, “Your message is more responsible because there’s more people listening.”
VIDEO: Don’t Go Gentle film trailer