It’s been a long time since we labeled Idlewild’s The Remote Part 2002’s album of the year. The album proved that an artist’s ascent to the peak of their critical and commercial powers could go hand-in-hand. The Remote Part was wonderful, in every respect, and ultimately proved to be a difficult achievement to replicate. While the albums that followed for Idlewild did not quite reach the same pull as The Remote Part, there were still plenty of gems in the work that followed. 2005’s Warnings/Promises opened with two stellar tracks that remain as some of the band’s best work. Make Another World still had “No Emotion”, a tonal balance between the more frenzied nature of 100 Broken Windows and The Remote Part’s more composed maturity. So it’s been with these last two albums, the two since the band’s lengthy break and return, that things have seemed a little off-kilter.
2015’s Everything Ever Written meandered a little too much into dreamy pop landscapes and didn’t have enough of tracks like “On Another Planet”. Now four years later and things seem to have continued on the musical trajectory of Everything Ever Written. On the surface, Interview Music comes across as a little too same same, weaving in and out of a dream-like tendency to rely too much on a kaleidoscope of pop, 60s psychedelia, and tired melodies. Take opener “Dream Variations” as an example- sounds OK at first, but at the 3-minute mark it dives down to slow, plodding bass-driven ruminations that honestly, becomes rather tedious. “There’s A Place For Everything” does little to assuage the plainness- skittering percussions sprinkled over the mid-tempo airiness of its pop-tinged structures means the opening stanzas of Interview Music disappears into the background far too easily. You really do have to push through before you make it to the title track where the band finally show some life.
Thankfully, the vocal work of Roddy Woomble never wavers- and his poetic, sometimes spoken-word tone of his voice remains a strong aspect of Idlewild’s music (best seen in the track “Same Things Twice”). “All These Words” is the album’s best moment- part “American English”, part “Love Steals Us From Loneliness”, the song exhibits some of the musical resolve the band showcased on their first few albums. And this resolve isn’t about being loud, or brash, but rather just being memorable and resonate. Unfortunately there just isn’t enough of it through Interview Music. There is just too much of not much in the mix; songs like “You Wear it Secondhand” and “I Almost Didn’t Notice” seem to just blur together, like much of the album. It’s a shame really. Interview Music is not a terrible album, it’s not even a bad album, it just doesn’t have the spark the band so wonderfully showcased earlier in their career.