Formed from the ashes of an unrecorded '77 punk band, Speed, Band Of Holy Joy's initial musical forays were largely in the domain of industrial bricolage and occasional bursts of madness. By the time they began releasing records under their own name in the 1980s, the band's humanist tendencies came to the fore, with astounding portraits of people on the periphery, resulting in such classics as Rosemary Smith
, Mad Dot
and Don't Stick Knives In Babbies Heads
. The sharp sensibilities of founder and leader Johny Brown eventually led to a star-making deal with Rough Trade, a few near hits and career momentum shattered when the label collapsed mere days after what might have been the band's breakthrough album.
Slowly, a new Band Of Holy Joy has blossomed. Despite all the expected rock 'n roll trappings - Great shows! Killer tunes! Special guests! - the band operate, well, differently. In some aspects, they're an art collective. Inspired by the possibilities which burst forth after punk, the band's expression takes many forms. Visual artist Inga Tillere plays a large role in shaping the band's aesthetic and live events, and in musical foil James Stephen Finn, Johny's poetic vision transcends expectations without resorting to desperate reaches into esoterica. FUNAMBULIST WE LOVE YOU
may be the first true literary examination of the malaise set forth by Brexit, Trump, the rise of the far-right and a general disenfranchisement from most post-war liberal values. It rarely names any names, and it's far from strident, but it's undeniably a record forged by 2017.
The Band Of Holy Joy 2017 model is a sleek beat outfit that owes as much to indie music in the proper sense of indie as it does to the Brechtian connotations of past Band Of Holy Joy incarnations. They have lineage but never dwell on it preferring to forge forward. They have a history too but never let it drag them back. For the past few years they have been quietly growing and gestating and now they have emerged fully reborn with renewed purpose of sound and vision.
They are a six piece of drums, bass, guitar, visuals, sixties organ and vocals, I couldn't tell you who they sound like, but they love The Subway Sect, The Jefferson Airplane, Mary J Blige, Gray, Funkadelic and the like, and when they play they possess the stage and make a beautiful racket, tell passionate tales and fill the room with light and wonder, they same to be on a mission of some sort, a mission of intent and possibilities, of old punk sensibilities honoured, and glamour in age portrayed.
On a Friday night they put out a radio show called BAD PUNK
which has nothing to do with any kind of new wave but is a beautiful strange mix of soundscape and poetry, very arch, sometimes a bit too sensitive, but on the stage they are a different beast, on stage they blow and howl, they they make musical bows to Funk and Soul at times and are wont to throw the odd Vincent Gallo cover version in to their set. Classically minded songs suddenly billow out into intense noise work-outs. They are quite traditional in set up but oh how the lyrics reflect these wyrd modern times we live in.
That's all I can say really, other than forget old notions of what you think Holy Joy may or may not have been, whether they were any good or just terminally bad, if you like crooked style and sentient smiles, if you see the beautiful in the ugly or the happy in the sad still and just love a band intent on playing a great strange different kind of song come and see this band.
Johny Brown - vocals
James Stephen Finn - guitar
Mark Beazley - bass
Peter Smith - organ
Steve Hands - drums
Inga Tillere - visuals