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Idiot Savants

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Album Review

After several inconsistent releases, the Durutti Column hit a purple patch in the mid-'00s. Even the famously self-critical Vini Reilly recognized this, going so far as to describe Idiot Savants' predecessor, Keep Breathing, as one of the only albums in his extensive catalog worthy of a passing grade. With Idiot Savants, however, the Durutti Column's run of good form falters slightly, as the album's strengths are marginally outweighed by its weaknesses. Reilly's music has often integrated sampled vocals, drawing on everything from Annie Lennox to opera, and that approach is at the heart of this album's standout, the rousing "Better Must Come," which incorporates the refrain from Jamaican child star QQ's hit of the same name. The reason Reilly first started working with samples was that Tony Wilson (the Durutti Column's original manager and biggest champion) disliked his protégé's singing; regardless, on "2 Times Nice," another high point, Reilly turns in a convincing vocal performance, mixing his flat melancholia with unlikely bursts of heavy metal guitar. Elsewhere, he enlists guest singer Poppy Roberts — most successfully on the delicate "Interleukin 2," a piece composed specifically for Tony Wilson to relax to whilst undergoing cancer treatment. (Wilson himself named the track for one of the drugs he was taking.) These three numbers stretch over six minutes each and are compelling throughout, but a few other lengthy tracks wear out their welcome: "Whisper to the Wind" and "Gathering Dust" soon begin to meander blandly, notwithstanding Roberts' presence, whereas the nine-minute "Please Let Me Sleep" would have been more effective had it ended after the beautiful Spanish guitar passage that occupies the first five minutes. Given the overall inconsistency, this isn't an essential entry in the Durutti discography; nevertheless, it shows that Reilly can still come up with fresh, inventive work. Not bad for an artist three decades into his career.


Formed: 1978 in Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Durutti Column was primarily the vehicle of Vini Reilly, a guitarist born in Manchester, England, in 1953. As a child, Reilly first took up the piano, drawing inspiration from greats like Art Tatum and Fats Waller, before learning to play guitar at the age of ten. Despite an early affection for folk and jazz, Reilly ultimately became swept up by the punk movement, and in 1977 he joined the group Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds. In 1978, Factory Records founder Tony Wilson invited Reilly to join a...
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