In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
I need to admit to being a bit late to the party as far as it goes with The Band Of Holy Joy.
Certainly I’ve been aware of them as a recurring name amongst the innumerable listings of previous decades, and it seems a fault on my own part that ‘Dreams Take Flight’ is the first of their twenty or so albums that I’ve actually got around to hearing. Formed in south London at the beginning of the 80s, band mainstay Johny Brown has pursued his own particular musical directions regardless of consequences, or so it would appear. There again, ‘Dreams Take Flight’ is hardly the sound of desperation, artistic or of any other sort. What it is, is a confidently performed and smartly produced work whose songs, while they’re reminiscent of numerous indie stalwarts of repute, retain at their core the occasionally mordant although always expressive words and voice of Johny Brown, while the measured, even meticulous music that provides a backdrop to the vocal matches the lyrical verbosity note for note.
The Band Of Holy Joy ‘Dreams Take Flight’ Tiny Global Records
Opening track ‘This Is The Festival Scene’ is a tale of actual woe that has perhaps some basis in fact.
Remember reading about a planned music festival on a Caribbean island that was cancelled after half of the audience turned up? Well, Johny Brown wrote a song quite probably based on this and the song itself describes a Lord of the Flies scenario as the entire festival collapses into chaos, stage included, over a reggae and synth tinged backing that’s an intriguing introduction to the actual band. Next track ‘A Leap Into The Great Unknown’ is the sort of ballad that you’ll get the idea the Band of Holy Joy are really good at and again, the band are turning in a performance that’s equally powerful and subtle. ‘Just a pair of urbane fools waiting for our cause’ sings Johny Brown, although whatever the Band Of Holy Joy were waiting for seems to have already arrived. ‘On Set Romance’ has an elegaic quality reminiscent of 80s and 90s indie, and James Finn’s guitar has a touch of the Johnny Marr’s about it while a trumpet break adds an epic quality to an already dramatic piece of songcraft.
Notes From A Gallery’ is a performed description of a series of events that Band Of Holy Joy have curated in a north London gallery and, aside form a direct description of the performances, Johny Brown opens up a discourse regarding the transformative qualities of artistic experience. I haven’t often heard vocalists delving into artistic philosophy of this sort, and in the background Mark Beazley’s slippery bass and Suki Smith’s wordless vocalising provide one of the album’s musical highlights. Lastly, Johny Brown continues to extemporise on his concepts of art and life throughout ‘A New Clear Vision’, which is also a love song.
On what is their twenty third album, The Band Of Holy Joy reveal themselves as an impressively tight group of musicians while Johny Browns highly literate – and importantly, accessible – songwriting carries a mixture of dark humours, ideas and statements and also an emotive power, aspects of his words that can appear within a single song. The eight tracks on ‘Dreams Take Flight’ are an impressive reminder of the existence of one of the most underrated 80s bands still making music today, should you require it.