The news earlier this week that Joy As An Act Of Resistance, the second album by Bristolian punks Idles had entered the charts ( The real, grown up charts) at number five (And was number #1 in terms of vinyl sales) was remarkable in a number of senses.
Firstly, for such an quote-unquote underground band to dance commercially with the magnolia blandness of The Greatest Showman and Abba was testimony to their rabid fan base. Putting their money where their ears were, a group linked together often by not much more than their devotion, responded gleefully to the opportunity of landing a quote-unquote radical album into the unconscious path of the general public.
In some ways though the unit-shifting and streaming story was the least unsurprising one of all; after two years of endless touring and a protracted build up to the album’s release, that those wowed by the quintet’s exceptional live shows would mobilise en-masse could’ve been something of a given.
Other outcomes were less so. Whereas their debut album Brutalism looked at post-Brexit society sideways on, its successor met these glaring contortions with a sense of realism, stripping away any veneer of artistic privilege and skewering chart-unfriendly subjects such as toxic masculinity, grief and mental health. Yet through it all the band keep on grinning, passionate but compassionate, angry but not yet resigned to anyone’s fate.
Hits aren’t generally made of this fabric of course, pop’s frequencies are designed to lull. Whether putting this difficult subject matter above the counter – albeit briefly – will change that is anyone’s guess, but Joy As Act Of Resistance has if nothing else proved that some people at least are willing to refuse the easy way out.
In that sense you don’t have to like Idles music – something even they confess has little in it by way of innovation – to be optimistic about the band’s success. Whilst they’ve merely reinforced some of the industry’s old adages about hard work, equally the belief that consumers don’t want to think, like Kansas, has gone bye-bye. In many ways music has never sounded better – but it’s been a long ride to beautiful disposability. Idles are turning art into conversation and for anyone who doesn’t want to still be listening to Bohemian Rhapsody every day until they die or go deaf, this should be reason enough to sing, smile, dance, or even talk to the person next to you on the bus.