'Don't Go Gentle' is a succinct portrayal of Idles' journey so far
Danny Nedelko is a man, immigrant, friend-of-the-band, and eponymous subject of Idles most popular song. ‘My blood brother’s Freddie Mercury, a Nigerian mother-of-three’, so it goes. Some way through Don’t Go Gentle we are privy to Danny sporting a t-shirt with the dictum ‘No one is an Island’ emblazoned upon it. Indeed, this phrase is the mantra which guides the band’s foremost principles, as well as those of Idles online fandom AF Gang. But it is also the antithesis to a culture of individualism that has defined the neoliberal era, best epitomised by Margaret Thatcher’s ‘there is no such thing as society’ speech.
Since Thatcher’s reign, it is this state-sponsored power-of-you mentality and abundant competition for resources that has undermined the ability to organise - and to identify with something larger than oneself. The result is the proliferation of fringe movements which seek to refute such ideas, and which have subsequently found refuge on the icy plains of the internet. It is the esoteric meme communities, flat-earth conspiracy sites, and online band-fandoms.
Idles are one band that reflect the anger of those occupying these fringes. They are, for fans, a gateway through which such anger can be manifested, computed, and contorted into something joyful. AF Gang - now with over 27,000 members - is the online community of Idles obsessives who come to communicate this joy while exercising the bands ethos of unadulterated openness and inclusivity.
Joe Talbot, Idles front-man, speaks freely of the mindfulness that allows AF Gang to thrive. ‘Everyone feels like they’re ugly and everyone feels like they’re not intelligent enough for their job. Everyone feels like they’re underperforming because everyone’s telling them they’ve got to be perfect. That’s unnatural’ he says.
It’s as if Talbot, through prolific interview dialogue and honest political gesticulations (not forgetting his lyrics), has become something of a positive PR machine, dictating an ethos to a crowd of worshippers who gladly receive it. Or perhaps more realistically, the ideas he expresses are ones that fans have long thought, but rarely heard articulated outside of themselves. Indeed, Idles have created a thought-space for such people to occupy. But you get the impression the members of AF Gang would stick together long after the bands demise.
AF Gang is a place where no problem is too small, no grievance too personal. ‘People get in touch to tell us they’ve had a cancer diagnosis’, says AF Gang founder Lindsey Melbourne. She continues: ‘It’s easier to talk to us than it is to talk to some of their nearest and dearest’. This openness is reflected well in the film itself. Talbot speaks of the death of his daughter, Agatha, with brevity - but also with the same frankness that imbues AF Gang’s philosophy.
The film is a succinct portrayal of a band’s journey; their music, the gigs they’ve played, the cities they’ve conquered - and also what they mean to those who have followed them to this point. Undoubtedly, it is this last feature which makes Don’t Go Gentle unique. But with regard to the relationships which inspire Idles art, the ideas that propel them forward, and the nuances of the lives around them – at just 75 minutes runtime - there is much to be explored.