Idlewild Comes Into Its Own 'Part'

For Scottish rogue act Idlewild, the U.K. commercial success of its third album, "The Remote Part" (released domestically March 25 by Capitol), allowed it to finally become more than just a cult favor

For Scottish rogue act Idlewild, the U.K. commercial success of its third album, "The Remote Part" (released domestically March 25 by Capitol), allowed it to finally become more than just a cult favorite on its native soil. The group started playing out in Edinburgh in 1995 while its members were still teenagers, releasing two singles and a mini-album, "Captain." On the strength of these and live shows legendary for bedlam, the band landed a major label deal and in 1999, released its Odeon debut, "Hope Is Important."

Ironically enough, singer Roddy Woomble attributes the quintet's current overseas triumph in part to American enthusiasm for Idlewild's 2001 sophomore set "100 Broken Windows."

"We were given a lot of confidence by how well '100 Broken Windows' was received, it got an amazing reception in America," he says. "People suddenly had seen us as this really legitimate British band, as opposed to these noisy outsiders, which we were always seen as in the U.K. [There] we were seen as this band that had their fans and that was it. I think people were just expecting us to put out the same kind of records again and again, which would appeal to this collection of fans. 'The Remote Part' changed that completely. It appealed to everyone and sold a lot of copies."

"Part" is indeed a logical step forward for the group, splitting the difference between the raucous noise of "Important" and the chiming, pop hook-heavy "Windows." For every bone-crushing chord and breakneck tempo found on songs like "(I Am) What I Am Not" and "A Modern Way of Letting Go," the album features lighter diversions, such as the stately acoustic ballad "American English" or "You Held The World In Your Arms," an anthemic, strings-layered celebration.

"We definitely took '100 Broken Windows' as the starting point for this record," he explains. "I suppose we actually simplified it. Chords and words have all been used before, so it's just the way you rearrange them and the personality you put into them, and I think individually we felt completely different as people, and I think that resulted in the record sounding different."

Despite his laughing claims to the contrary ("I'm not some little poet guy," he says. "The music's driving sometimes and I just take a backseat and sing along with it, and sometimes I take a step forward and sing something that's got a bit of soul behind it.") Woomble's lyrics also demonstrate a newfound maturity and literary sophistication, peppered with enigmatic poetic phrases that beg close analysis.

He cites his friendship with Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, who contributes vocals to the epic, Smiths-like final track, "Scottish Fiction," as "pivotal" to the thoughts and ideas driving the new album. "I guess if there was one thing that kind of cropped up in all songs it was themes of identity," Woomble says. "Quite specific to Scotland in one way, because I'm Scottish and the band are Scottish, and that's where we grew up. But at the same time, it's kind of universal, really, everyone's relationship with where they come from."

Woomble's herky-jerky but impassioned movements during Idlewild's live shows do little to squelch comparisons to another mystic poet type, Michael Stipe. Touring-wise, his band is also following R.E.M.'s lead: just as the Athens rockers opened for megastars like the Police in their early days, Idlewild landed one of the coveted opening slots for esteemed rock outfit Pearl Jam on its North American tour this summer.

"That really took us by surprise," he admits. "Jeff [Ament] the bass player is a fan, and they always pick their own supports. The way [Pearl Jam have] presented themselves over the years has always been like really honest, just good guys, so they'll be fun to hang out with. I don't know what Pearl Jam's audience is like in America, but I think Idlewild is a band they could probably get into."