As one of the most prolific groups of the late 1990s and early 2000s, last December's news Idlewild had recorded a new album felt like the icing on a mouthwatering Christmas cake. Having been on a self-imposed hiatus since the early part of 2010, it was always touch and go whether Idlewild would make another record together, particularly with Roddy Woomble's solo career having taken off during the interim period.
Nevertheless, there was also a sense of trepidation. For starters, the Idlewild that recorded their most recent long player, 2009's 'Post Electric Blues', were coming from an entirely different place musically to the one that recorded their first, 1998's 'Captain'. Forget the personnel involved; aside from Woomble, fellow original members Rod Jones and Colin Newton also play on the new record. It's clear from the direction taken since the departure of long-standing bass player Bob Fairfoull after 2002's 'The Remote Part' Idlewild were mutating into a new entity.
So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that 'Everything Ever Written', their eighth studio album and first in five years, follows a similar path to that of its last three predecessors. With newcomers Andrew Mitchell (bass) and Lucci Rossi (keyboards) on board alongside the aforementioned three mainstays, it's a mature, focused yet overtly safe record that announces their return with a whimper rather than scream. While the songs themselves sound polished, there's an air of politeness surrounding their existence that suggests the fire of yore has disappeared for good.
While the likes of opener 'Collect Yourself' and penultimate 'Left Like Roses' hint at more diverse avenues, the former mashes 70s rock guitar licks with Franz Ferdinand style song structures whereas the latter finds itself hotfooting through new wave territories courtesy of its 'She's Lost Control' backbeat. There's little else here to get excited about. The Idlewild of old (i.e. pre 2005's 'Warnings/Promises') rears its head a couple of times on the insistent melodrama of 'Nothing I Can Do About It' and crunching angst of 'On Another Planet', the only time Newton's drums appear prevalent in the mix throughout the entire record.
Elsewhere, it's a maudlin ballad fest as tawdry identikit pieces meander by. And that, unfortunately, is the saddest part. Hopefully 'Everything Ever Written' won't become Idlewild's epitaph. However, it's highly unlikely it will serve as a source of inspiration either.
Sometimes, the past is better left where it belongs.
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