First Issue Revisited: Idlewild on “100 Broken Windows” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, September 27th, 2022  

Roddy Woomble of Idlewild in Los Angeles, CA in 2004.

First Issue Revisited: Idlewild on “100 Broken Windows”

The Abandoned Painting

Aug 17, 2022 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern (for Under the Radar) Issue #69 - 20th Anniversary Issue
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As part of our 20th anniversary coverage we thought it would be interesting to conduct brand new interviews with some of the artists interviewed in our very first issue way back in December 2001. We weren’t able to talk to everyone for a variety of reasons but luckily many of the first issue artists were game for a catch up to discuss their albums from the early 2000s and what they’ve been up to since. With each new interview we’ve included a small image of the layout of the first page of each artist’s original article from our first issue. These articles originally ran in our 20th Anniversary Issue, but are now being posted online. Here’s a First Issue Revisited interview with Idlewild.

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To look at Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble now, you wouldn’t think a day had gone by since the release of their breakthrough second album, 2000’s 100 Broken Windows, for which we interviewed the band in our very first issue. Still boyish, dressed in a blazer, and nursing a glass of red wine; the Scottish singer gives off the air of the cool new arts teacher fresh out of college. When asked about his strongest feelings from the early 2000s, he fondly remembers an intense period for four young men—at the time the band also featured bassist Bob Fairfoull, guitarist Rod Jones, and drummer Colin Newton—yet to truly prove themselves. “It was almost like every gig was the last gig they were going to play so when we started getting onstage ourselves we had that approach,” he remembers. “We had no aspirations be famous or to be stars. We wanted to be in a band that appealed to music fans.”

Idlewild were snapped up by EMI imprint Food Records for the 1998 release of their debut album, Hope Is Important, and whilst they were worried that decision “went against a lot of the principles that we thought that we had,” they found they were the perfect platform to help them grow. “EMI didn’t want to change us but from their point of view [they said], ‘We think you can also be R.E.M. or The Smiths. We don’t think you need to be just this noisy soft punk rock band. We see something in you that we can develop and help you become a different band.’”

100 Broken Windows was the band’s first of many collaborations with producer Dave Eringa, who helped nurture the band’s potential anthemic dimension, leading to such beloved singles as “Little Discourage,” “These Wooden Ideas,” and “Roseability.”

“He gave the record a direction,” says Woomble. “He didn’t try to change the band; he just really worked on all of our strengths. He saw we were influenced by a lot of British acts from the ’80s and also had a kind of American edge but also a very singular Scottish identity, which he honed onto, particularly my voice, he stopped me singing in an American accent. The band started to really form its identity and voice through that record.”

Idlewild feature from Issue #1.
Idlewild feature from Issue #1.

100 Broken Windows harnessed the raw excitement of the live experience, brought forward the angular post-punk riffs that made them stand out during the last bloated days of Britpop, and amplified the melodic nature of the album. “I think that’s why Broken Windows was embraced so much by people. Because people could whistle along to songs but when you went to see the band, it was this mix of energy and tunes.”

Yet despite feeling like they had created their best work yet, Idlewild still had to combat preconceived notions from the UK music press. “The minute Broken Windows came out I think it sent waves through the critics and they realized then that they maybe had to reassess us,” Woomble explains. “One of the interesting things was: I remember they were going to review it for the NME. They sent it to this guy, and he didn’t like it and gave it a bad review, which they didn’t run because the editor came back and said, ‘We’ve been listening to this record and we love it so we’re going to re-review it.’”

Despite the huge momentum and growing number of fans thanks to college radio, 100 Broken Windows was never fully supported by a reluctant Capitol Records for the U.S. release. “The problem our records have always suffered from in America is they always came out the year after they did in Britain so you’d lost a lot of that momentum and a lot of fans already had it; they had to buy it on import. That affected sales I suppose, so the record label were never really that keen on us in that way,” Woomble laments.

Idlewild followed up 100 Broken Windows with 2002’s The Remote Part, which gave the band even more success, landing at #3 on the UK album charts and garnering near universal acclaim from critics. Two decades later and the band is still going strong after a brief hiatus from 2010 to 2013 and despite Fairfoull’s departure in 2002, releasing their most recent album, Interview Music, in 2019. Woomble, who has also released several solo albums, including 2021’s Lo! Soul, and also wrote the 2021 book In the Beginning There Were Answers: 25 Years of Idlewild, waxes poetic when offering his final reflections on 100 Broken Windows.

“It’s like, say you’re a painter and you do a painting and you don’t know why, but you stand back when you think you’ve finally abandoned it, maybe not finished it,” he says. “You don’t know why it makes you feel that way but it does. It just seems to capture something and you couldn’t replicate it again. That’s the way I feel about 100 Broken Windows as a record four of us made together. We just sort of got it right and we captured something quite quickly and it really holds together. Even the album artwork and the photographs we chose of each other, everything really works.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 69 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, our 20th Anniversary Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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