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Review: Idle Pilot – Animals & People

Idle Pilot have often had a literary quality to their lyrics, with a focus on imagery and characters.  One example is when vocalist Alex Miller sings about the “sound guy” who “cried a laugh” on the track “Venues” from their 2015 Mondegreen release.  Another is their single “Lead Head Fred”, which literally tells a story about a character named Lead Head Fred. The trio further expand upon their literary tendencies with Animals and People: an album described on their band-camp page as “an album masquerading as a short-story.” Each track focuses on a different character’s individual story and the “morally ambiguous town” they all live in.

I won’t delve much into any perceived meaning of the lyrics. I think it’s better to let the listener decide on any meaning he or she may decipher from their own listening experience. I will say that, thematically, there was definitely an over-arching sense of alienation and desperation, especially with a line from “Mr. Skinny Bones”: “All the kids have moved away/ But you’re just too afraid so you decide to stay/ inside your room all day/ while sneaking glances from a window painted black”, as well as with the absurdist line “Everybody’s searching for something they will never find” which Miller repeatedly screams at the end of “Sammy So-So”.

Musically, Idle Pilot continues to perfect their signature sound which fuses post-hardcore, math-rock, and noise-rock influences with their angular riffs, heavy poly-rhythmic drumming, and Miller’s raw vocals. I’m reminded of Fugazi, Slint, Shellac, and, to a lesser extent, Les Savy Fav and 1990s era Modest Mouse.

What makes Animals and People unique are the lyrics. Musically, Idle Pilot are rooted in music that is typically not driven by lyrics. In the world of post-hardcore and indie rock, the emphasis is usually on the guitar riff, the drum-fill, the pauses, the guitar feedback, etc. The lyrics often exist merely to qualify the music as a complete song. With Animals and People, Idle Pilot have made the lyrics a driving force in their songs. I would be interested to see the trio further expand upon their story-telling style of songwriting. Could we expect an Idle Pilot rock opera in the future? Who’s to say? Either way, I won’t hold my breath. I might just be “searching for something I will never find.”
– Dave Boz

You can catch Idle Pilot live at UnchARTed in Lowell, MA on 3/31/2018. Event page: Here