2019 album. "Urban folk". Also available on CD.
Band Of Holy Joy have gone through many incarnations of musical imagination, inspiration and output, without straying from their roots in poetic expressions of social observation and critique - and good tunes! As are their diverse spiritual brethren - The Mekons, Nightingales, The Pop Group - Johny Brown and compatriots are best in periods of social upheaval and rule by opportunistic, insipid demagogues, which is why Band Of Holy Joy, like the aforementioned bands, are in the midst of a powerful renaissance.
Johny Brown formed the band in London in 1984 and their early DIY approach was captured on a couple of self-released cassettes which brought them to the attention of the small indie label Flim Flam who issued some singles and a couple of LPs. They hit their peak in the late 80s when the big indie label Rough Trade picked them up. The collapse of the label in 1991 hit the bands fortunes and after one more album under the abbreviated moniker ‘Holy Joy’, Brown ended the group and moved into journalism and production. He re-started the group in 2002 and have been active ever since with an ever revolving line-up.
‘Neon Primitives’ stand-out track, “The Devil Has A Hold On The Land”, names the very forces of evil which have led to the ills of 2019. It’s unlikely any other song released this year will call to mind the insanity of the current crises when we dare to look back, some years from now. Not to diminish the power of the album as a whole, “Lost In The Night”’s palate-cleansing exorcism leads the way to “The Devil Had A Hold On The Land”. A surprise cover of Vincent Gallo’s “So Sad” is the drowsy Sunday morning hangover to “Ecstasy Snowbirds”’ woke realisation of a failed relationship. “Take Head Calumniators” is a call to arms against deceivers, breaking the introspection of the two previous songs.
The second side features four songs of loose optimism performed in a mixture of styles. “Some People Have Winged Fortune” fractures a version of the melody from Orange Juice’s “Upwards And Onwards” to a message of hope. “Urban Pilgrims”, lyrically reminiscent of Band Of Holy Joy’s early song craft, is a half-told tale of spiritual renewal in a landscape which would seem antipathetic to any form of rebirth. “Electric Pilgrims” links the process of aging to the nearness of satori. The epic closer “We Are Sailing To The Island Of Light” is a dark sea shanty championing the shambolic assortment of people who offer hope in dark times; a riposte to those forces of evil called out in “The Devil Has A Hold On The Land.”