Idle Hands revisit their roots with Don’t Waste Your Time II

by Schuler // Death Drive 90.5

The COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined the touring arm of the music industry–well, at least for artists who aren’t stupid or selfish enough to try and hit the road against the advice of… pretty much everybody who isn’t stupid or selfish. The financial repercussions of not being able to generate income from live performances have been a double-edged sword; while it’s forced many up-and-coming bands back into their pre-touring 9-5 grind, it’s also provided time to write and record new material. Portland’s Idle Hands should be on the road right now. Their debut full-length, Mana, was one of 2019’s finest heavy rock records, and the band’s popularity has steadily increased with each new avenue of exposure they’ve been able to take. But they’re not stupid or selfish, so they’re at home. However they’ve been anything but idle; on July 7th, the band returned to their roots with a (somewhat) new two-song EP, Don’t Waste Your Time II (Lone Fir Records).

Before dropping Mana last year, Idle Hands drummed up buzz in the trad metal underground in 2018 with their first EP, Don’t Waste Your Time. Like the subsequent LP, these early tracks wove Ramones in “Pet Sematary” mode together with Don’t Break The Oath-era Mercyful Fate riffs, complemented by a morose lyrical tapestry of fantasy, nostalgia, and a smidge of suicidal ideation. According to the new EP’s press release, however, in the interest of delivering a strong, unified first taste, Idle Hands decided to sit on two tracks from the DWYT writing sessions back in 2017. These two songs, “It Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Puppy Love,” comprise Don’t Waste Your Time II, and serve as something of a bookend for the band’s formative years.

Put simply, if you’re a fan of these dudes, you’re gonna like these songs. While Mana saw lyricist and songwriter Gabriel Franco venture into sword-and-sorcery, these two new/old songs represent the bleakest and most playful of the coming-of-age observations that pervade the rest of Idle Hands’ work. Side A’s “It Doesn’t Really Matter” is one of the band’s poppiest, high-energy songs; this seems to contradict lyrics that display Franco at his most baldly nihilistic, but rather than undercutting the song’s hooks, it actually makes them linger longer.  At the other end of the spectrum is Side B’s “Puppy Love,” a melodic memorialization of adolescent romance… its intensity in the moment, its apathy and ephemera in hindsight. 

Honestly, we should’ve heard these tracks before now. While I get the impulse to lean into an “all killer/no filler” approach with a debut release, I don’t think either song would’ve diluted Don’t Waste Your Time even a little bit. Either way, I’m glad Idle Hands fans are getting to hear them now, and hopefully if the group’s old throwaway tracks are this good, the future stuff they have in store for us will be even better.

Don’t Waste Your Time II is currently streaming on all platforms, with vinyl preorders available from Lone Fir Records.