The melodies on offer here are bolstered with some tasteful strings, piano and pedal...
Richard Banks 2002
Listening to Warnings / Promises, it's incredible to think that Idlewild were once famously described as sounding "like a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs" by the NME. The band's 1998 debut Hope Is Important was chock full of sinewy indie-punk riffs. It was a beautiful mess, like an old scrapbook overflowing with hastily scribbled notes and rough sketches.
100 Broken Windows followed in 2000, where they unveiled their flair for a killer pop chorus, while retaining their spiky edges and art school kudos. It was easily Idlewild's best and most infectious work to date (and for many it remains so).
Then came The Remote Part, which saw them breakthrough to the mainstream with the album's second single, "American English". This is the point where it all started to sound a tad like stadium rock, a little like M.O.R, and a lot like REM. This wasn't completely out the blue, of course; there were early signs that this might happen. "I'm Happy To Be Here Tonight" on Hope Is Important and "The Bronze Medal" on 100 Broken Windows hinted at a softer side niggling away in the background. And hey, it's already happened to Feeder...
On Warnings / Promises, the band give this gentler alter-ego some room to blossom. There are however times when the Idlewild of old rears its indie head - see "I Want A Warning" and "The Space Between All Things" but it's all too quickly brushed under the rug. The riffs-upon-riffs-upon-riffs approach seems a faded memory now. Instead the melodies on offer here are bolstered with some tasteful strings, piano and pedal steel, giving the album a folky, wistful feel.
Still, there's solace in the fact that some things never change. Idlewild's use of harmony and backing vocals remains impeccable; their choruses remain mountainous. Warnings / Promises may not be a bad listen, but it's a truly radical departure from the likes of "Last Night I Missed All The Fireworks" and "You Don't Have The Heart", and you can't help but think the die-hard fans will be disappointed.