BAND OF HOLY JOY – Lucky 7 & Velvet Sheep’s Album of the Year For “Funambulist We Love You”
LUCKY 7 is the feature where we ask artists to name their 6 favourite songs by others, and a lucky 7th song of their own…
Today it’s a welcome return to Velvet Sheep fanzine by Band of Holy Joy, whose album “Funambulist We Love You” is our album of the year. There will always be a bit of my heart devoted to Holy Joy since first seeing them play at the Marquee in the early 90s and admiring band leader Johny Brown’s evangelical, indie radical magnetism.
Here’s what I said about “Funambulist We Love You” when I reviewed it earlier this year:
“It is hairs on the neck-worthy. Johny is a fantastic wordsmith, and while as he says “Donald Trump laughs on the TV”, it’s both timeless stuff and yet very now. They are older, wiser and back in time for when antipathy needs to be replaced by anarchy, or at least a strident voice, in order that our World doesn’t self destruct (or at least discombulate). Not to say that Johny Brown can save the World on his own, but he’ll certainly aim some barbs at some serious bull.
It’s self effacing stuff too, on lead song “A Revivalist Impulse” he at once acknowledges the place of Holy Joy (later on in the record referred to as “best band in the world”) but also genuinely pines for “radical indie fundamentalism”, a label you can surely apply to his outfit. Therein lies the tightrope (a funambulist is a tightrope walker) that The Band Of Holy Joy teeters on – “it’s a call for the resurrection of hope and possibility!” (one which used to feature Courtney Love according to Johny. The immediacy continues with “To Leave Or Remain”, a love song/lament for well you know what, and another real highlight – the almost Smiths-esque “The Song of Casual Indifference”. I know I’m definitely “in” with Holy Joy”
Not only “Funambulist We Love You” but Band of Holy Joy have also this year released the 3 disc retrospective 41 track “The Clouds That Break The Sky” showing a wide range of indie rock romanticism, esoteric experimentalism and sheer bloody mindedness that got them a deal with Rough Trade Records before the label’s untimely original demise and a break up for the band. Now fully resurgent (and for some time now) 2017 has been a vintage year for this band in the rudest of health and Johny has already provided a brilliant “Lucky 7” for VS this year. I asked whether he’d like the dubious honour of sending us another one to celebrate my pompous but righteous and truly heartfelt announcement of “Funambulist…” as our album of the year, and graciously he said yes! Hooray! I didn’t think it was possible to love him and the band more than I do…
Before we get to Johny’s ace choices, here’s my fav from the album, it’s swaggering and soaring opener “A Revivalist Impulse”…
I asked Johny to pick his favourite 7 records of 2017 as his Lucky 7 (although the Lucky 7th is the notable but 100% justifiable wildcard exception), so here goes, complete with Johny’s own photos of the artwork and some well crafted words as only you’d expect from a master lyricist…take it away mate…
1. Spaceheads – A New World In Our Hearts
Andy Diagram says… “Time for the revolution to sashay up the mall again …. I am sick of hearing about these privileged medieval relics about to spend our money on their wedding. Time for a Republic!” Well who am I to argue? And this is certainly my soundtrack to walking around the city at the moment where the crane red lights of the off shore development construction firms gaze down on this old whore of a metropolis like Bowie’s red mutant eyes gazed down on hunger city.
A whole load of joyous upheaval caused by a trumpet and a drum kit and not forgetting the great visuals of Rucksack Cinema who illuminate this whole maddening parade. I love this.
2. Quarterlight – Black Leg Miner
Gary Chaplin’s grandfather was the writer Sid Chaplin who wrote some of the essential North East working class novels and plays back in the day. There is a book out at the moment called “Hame” which is a collection of Sid’s essays combined with recent photos around the ex mining village of Ferryhill and it’s one of the best most soulful books I’ve read in an age, it makes me want to return to the pit ponds and disused railway lines of my youth very much.
On this song Gary and his band Quarterlight update the great mining scab folk song “Black Leg Miner” in such a forceful inventive way I’m inspired to make music that touches on the past but looks to the future. I love this and I’m playing it a lot. The connection between this you tube linked film and the “Black Leg Miner” is tenuous to say the least but hey, it’s Quarterlight.
3. Mr. Ford and Mr. Gibbs – Recollections Vol. 4 and 5
There are some great silky football skills on display in the video of this song worn by young chaps displaying a sartorial elegance not seen since the Undertones went their separate routes. In the same way that the Quarterlight song covers the fields and hedges of a mispent youth, Keith Ford takes me right back to the council estate I grew up on. Though he is a South Shields, not North Shields man I am there totally when I listen to this great collection of songs and specifically this one “Quarriors Come Out To Play”, where he namechecks his old gang, a beautiful mix of memory and dream, resignation and hope. A great poet of our times is Keith.
4. Gagarin – Corvid
This is Gagarin’s best record to date and really takes you to an amazing place, using analogue electronics, beatscapes and superbly placed field recordings. It’s proper winters night indoor inward journey listening, it’s the kind of wayward but particular sound that battered old radio sets were made for, and would no doubt be best heard in the early hours in a garden shed on some frozen shore coming from some Soviet station on a faint signal picked up on short wave on a transistor bought in Latgalite Flea Market, worming it’s way into your head and then fading away again throughout the hours. Space is hear!
5. Lessons – Front & Follow compilation
I’ve listened to this beautifully packaged and curated compilation more than anything else for the past few weeks. Every track is a treasure, I especially love Farmer Glitch’s electronics, Laura Cannell’s strident violin textures and the Doomed Bird Of Providence, but every track here is worth searching out and investigating. It sounds great on the headphones when you’re in a plane above the clouds but sounds equally at home on the tube running under the city or on a train heading out to the coast. My favourite bit though and the essence of the whole thing, of this life itself even, is the writing of the man Maybury, when he says in his sleeve notes ‘These days it’s all a foggy mess, maybe it always was and I just didn’t notice… we’re in a temporary autonomous zone – the radio and a different lifetime’. I’m there too, lost in the static and surfing the toxic waves, in these weird days, and this is the right soundtrack.
6. Peter Hammill – From The Trees
It’s Hammill. It’s his latest album, it’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s of a certain mood and intense calibre which rests on the side of dark. It is essential listening.
The Lucky 7th: The Fall – The North Will Rise Again
I know this is meant to be seven lucky new things but in the light of the current situation I just wanted to pay a bit respect to The Fall and a toss up between the contrived wild of Lana Del Ray or the understated haunting of Silvi Vignola made way for “The North Will Rise Again”. I’ve always loved this track and it’s main protagonist Joe Totale whose cynical view of a mired Britain remains as pertinent now as it did then.
I saw the Fall at Rockaway Beach and they still cut it. My favourite ever Fall gig was my first at the New Tyne Theatre in 1980 where they very speedily set up shop on stage after Cabaret Voltaire and completely changed the art house mood with a frenetic rockabilly inspired set which just blew the house away, seen them many times since and bought and lost a whole load of Fall records in that time.
We supported them once in Folkestone and I’ve heard MES was quite partial to the Joy at one point. I know he would share a bottle of whisky with our old violin player the late great Karel Van Bergen whenever he passed through Munich. Anyway, much respect from this quarter and I absolutely love this track. Fall heads would kill me for saying it but it reminds me of Dylan’s “Brownsville Girl” in it’s absolute weird scope it’s grainy detail and warped romanticism! THE NORTH WILL RISE AGAIN, NOT IN TEN THOUSAND YEARS. I’m still hoping though mate. This one goes out to my pals Cindy Stern and Kenny Macmillan who’ve both turned me on to great music and beautiful rarities this year, stay lucky boys.
THANKS SO MUCH JOHNY, YOU LEGEND, LET’S HAVE THAT BEER/COFFEE SOON MATE.
BAND OF HOLY JOY CAN BE FOUND here…
and they are playing live soon and soon-ish…
Dec 08 The Cumberland Arms Newcastle Upon Tyne
Dec 09 Tynemouth Surf Cafe Newcastle Upon Tyne
Jan 12 Rockaway Beach, Butlins Bognor Regis
Apr 28 Hope & Ruin Brighton