Idlewild - Everything Ever Written

by James Weiskittel Rating:7 Release Date:2015-03-04

One could say Idlewild has enjoyed a bit of a storybook career arc. Spending much of the late 90s as alt-rock’s best kept secret from across the pond, it wasn’t until 2003’s The Remote Part (and a couple subsequent jaunts with Pearl Jam) that Idlewild began to taste the fruits of their hard-earned success. 

And for a brief moment it seemed as though Idlewild was everyone’s It band. They soon found themselves gracing the airwaves, magazine covers, and year-end best-of lists. But while they constantly flirted with the mainstream, Idlewild never fully committing to a second date, thus retaining that just-beneath-the-surface indie-cred that so many bands struggle to hold onto.

Idlewild continued to push and refine their sound over the course of their six albums until in 2010, with their chart success squarely in the rearview mirror, singer Roddy Woomble and co decided to quietly walk away from it all and take one of those oft-cited, fan-dreaded 'indefinite hiatus'. Two solo records and a couple of side-projects later, and Idlewild are back and about to release Everything Ever Written, their first LP since 2009's Post Electric Blues.

As is the case with most post-hiatus records, Everything Ever Written sounds very much like a band trying to encapsulate the best of all that they were and is, for the most part, a success. It easily could have been released five years ago as it is, in many ways, the next logical move forward for a a Scottish band that always mangaged to stay a few steps ahead of the fray.

A bit of musical chairs within the band's line-up resulted in the core trio of Woomble, Rod Jones (guitar as well as producer), and Colin Newton (drums) welcoming keyboardist Lucci Rossi and bassist Andrew Mitchell to the fold for the sessions, and the results are an album full of nuance and depth that continues to unravel itself with each repeated listen.

The swagger-infused opening track, 'Collect Yourself', immediately displays a welcome sense of urgency, while the jagged-post-punk of 'On Another Planet' would have easily fit on Idlewild’s debut. '(Use It) If You Can Use It' gracefully channels You in Reverse-era Built to Spill with it's stretched-out approach, serving not only as the album’s centerpiece, but also as a potential hint of things to come. 

While much of the album moves along at a drivingly up-tempo pace, 'Like a Clown' features Woomble’s thoughtful prose set against an alt-country backdrop, while 'All things Different' appropriately swings behind the pulse of an accompanying brass section. 

By the time you get to the unexpectedly pensive album closer 'Utopia', an emotionally charged piano ballad, you have received a taste of each and every phase of Idlewild’s career. That strength may also be Everything Ever Written’s only real weakness, in that it almost feels a bit broader in its reach than the band's current grasp; each sonic deviation leaves one wanting to hear more of that respective direction.

Just like the "Oh, how time flies" sentiment that often lingers after you run into an old friend, it's still hard to believe it's been five years since we last heard from Idlewild. Everything Ever Written is a welcome return that will satisfy most long-time fans, while also functioning as an excellent jumping-on point for an entire new generation of listeners that may have missed singer Roddy Woomble and co the first time around.

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