In 1998, Scotland's Idlewild released Hope Is Important, a scrappy, scabrous little collection of catchy punk songs. It was far from epochal, to say the least, so the overseas hype surrounding Idlewild's new 100 Broken Windows would seem to be little more than the typical exaggeration of the British press, which has in recent years built up ciphers such as Gay Dad to a positively amusing degree. But now that the wave of press has prompted a domestic release, Windows' arrival illustrates two things: Hype shouldn't always be ignored, and, as Radiohead and others have already demonstrated, some bands learn an awful lot between records. An unstoppably ingratiating, almost overeager guitar-rock powerhouse, Windows is one of the catchiest records in ages, pairing the domineering major-chord hooks of Foo Fighters and its forebears to Roddy Woomble's vocals, which periodically mumble, shout, or reveal his appealing Scottish brogue. Reference points vary wildly from the verse-chorus-verse dynamics of The Pixies to early R.E.M., whose slurred-and-shimmery sound is cribbed to marvelous effect throughout. At 39 minutes, there's no filler here, but the peaks are generously distributed: "Roseability" stakes its claim to the title of 2001's most infectious song—it's got a lot of competition here—while "Actually It's Darkness" deftly finds room for both a tinny drum machine and a rip-roaring chorus. Windows isn't the most versatile record in the world, but it does close with a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad, "The Bronze Medal," that might just be 2001's "Wonderwall." That may not redefine music as we know it, but a rock record this winning is cause for celebration in its own right.
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