by Chris Leslie-Hynan
Idlewild Sat March 29
Idlewild might be the best radio band you've never heard on the radio. In fact, they might be the best radio band in the world right now, period. Whether you love them for this or write them off, the quintet of young Scots are unusually good at what they do: providing a soundtrack for the yearning teen dreams of kids swapping notes cobbled out of Morrissey lyrics in the back of AP English class.
Witness "The Bronze Medal," from their sophomore album, 100 Broken Windows. After 11 songs with enough edge and crunch to bait critics into writing about the band's supposed punk past, this final track eases in with a guitar line as starkly comforting as smoke in early winter. Frontman Roddy Woomble (and let me interject--that's really his name. These guys were meant to be rock stars), whose accent has been muted for most of the album, turns on the Scotch to warble the final word of the chorus, "Nothing but your eyes / looking down on the fir'place." The words fit the music perfectly, and I swear every goddamn time he deliberately says "fireplace" wrong I'm lifted off into some romantic reverie in which I'm sixteen and standing with some pale girl in the doorway of a cabin in the Scottish highlands where leaves fall perpetually.
The band's third and latest album, The Remote Part, sees U.S. release this week after more than six months of languishing (it was released in the U.K. late last summer). The album is both better and worse than 100 Broken Windows. The most obvious thing about The Remote Part is its shameless bid for popularity--it's more a collection of singles than an album, and its weaker tracks (especially "I Never Wanted") exhibit a radio-ready lifelessness. Still, when it works, it works in spades: "American English" is absolutely titanic in its potential to be the best song to hit the airwaves since the early '90s. Pull the radio out of the fire.