100 Broken Windows is a refreshing throwback to a time when we all still believed in the vitality, power and thrill of deftly combined bass, guitar and drum. When intelligent, insightful thoughts were communicated concisely with a sympathetic human voice against the backdrop of alternately growling, surging and shimmering walls of guitar wash, cracking snare and spare, firm bass lines. Do you remember that time?
This quartet of disenfranchised 20-something Scotsmen certainly do. It's what makes this album (their third) such a hoot. From a predominantly punk foundation, Idlewild is charting a course into more expansive and inclusive arrangements previously charted by American post-punk bands such as Husker Du and The Replacements. When lead vox Roddy Woomble sings "you'll always be -- dissatisfied" at the end of the excellent "Roseability" he sounds, appropriately, not just a little like Paul Westerberg at his most angst-ridden, urgent and vulnerable.
Lyrically, the band explores familiar themes in a devious, highly literate fashion, using repetition and well-placed anti-hooks to devastating effect (an irresistible chorus built around the line "Gertrude Stein said that's enough," for instance). As for the sonics, Idlewild executes amazing rhythms and them envelops them in vocal harmonies and varied guitar-dominated textures, manipulating the dynamics of each song into something immediately striking and appealing. Yet these songs have legs. And as the album's more subtle charms slowly unfold, you realize that you're probably listening to one of the best records of the year.