In an uncertain year, in an uncertain world, one thing you can rely on as a beacon of righteous fury and unburnished hope is the Band of Holy Joy with Johny Brown’s incisive and evangelical lyrics and inimitably poetic sing-speak delivery. “Dreams Take Flight” on Tiny Global Productions is an absolute tour de force from a band at the top of their game, one that only gets better with age and experience.
I have been a fan for a long time, and my loyalty only bonds further and stronger. They’ve had an album of the year here on these pages before with 2017’s “Funambulist We Love You” (not to mention a “song of the year” in 2019 with “The Devil Has A Hold On The Land”) and this year’s effort adds to the glorious roll call with a joint entry with Swansea Sound’s “Live At The Rum Puncheon” in what was a tightly contested year of great music.
To celebrate “Dreams Take Flight” as our joint 2021 album of the year on Velvet Sheep, I’m reprinting our track by track review and also reprising Mr. Brown’s “song for ewe” pick from earlier this year by Galaxie 500 which not by accident was Velvet Sheep’s 500th “song for ewe” ever.
But first here’s a grabbingly glitchy pic of our hero and spokesmodel for a generation Johny…
As promised here’s that quick track by track precis from “Dreams Take Flight”
“This Is The Festival Scene” – a vital sounding cautionary tale of art terrorism with deadly consequences “documented live on social media” at a music event on a fictitious island where the bodies are then obscured by strewn plastic bottles. Part Fyre festival farce (catch the Netflix references), part terrible tragedy and commentary on twisted corporate consumerism and fatalistic nihilism. Openly dubby and suitably trippy, it’s quite an opener.
“A Leap Into The Great Unknown” – world weary and yet hopeful – time can be the healer, and most people are good. Take Johny’s hand and leap with him. As happy and hopeful, future-facing and yet reflective, like a ballad made by Studio Ghibli.
“That Magic Thing” – trademark spoken word Johny, fully yearning, with beautiful harmonies with Inga, it’s psychomatic psycho-magic with an insistent synth hook line.
“When Love Is Not Enough” – not so much a torchlight anthem as a searchlight song for the sirens – Johny’s voice part Morrissey before he was an insufferable bigot, and part Gene Pitney “Town Without Pity” – it’s definitely not pithy, and that almost Doves (from above) like guitar chime halfway through chills to the bone.
“On Set Romance” – “a shot of adrenaline to the heart/gets the day off to a lively start” is such a beautiful opening couplet, and the Marr guitars make this a real stand out moment, a timeless indie classic with real poise that could be both about love and war.
“Notes From A Gallery” – a truly meta song, written before and narrating an event that hadn’t happened at the time of recording, it’s art imitating life featuring art about the art. But this never disappears up its own posterior, instead bursting through the chest like Ripley’s alien from a band that dares to be different.
“The Rhythm of Life” – with a hopeful and well appointed start that could almost be a reprised theme in a contemplative moment in a John Hughes movie, Johny is looking for answers from a world where there aren’t many, and you do believe he might see a way through.
“A New Clear Vision” – BOHJ love a big closing number, an epic – and musically this one is like a mournful version of The Stranglers “Always The Sun” – there’s even a nuclear tip too. I for one am happy to follow Johny “untold miles to find a mythical ark”, as he truly is a visionary.
And here’s that 500th ever “song for ewe” pick by BOHJ’s Johny Brown:
“I love it’s sheer simplicity, it’s post Dylan and Velvet’s sensibility, it’s pre-shoegaze sensitivities, it’s beautiful use of the world of glitch undermining the sentimental nostalgia of its video and the killer two lines of the chorus, ‘I don’t want to know your friend’s, I just wanna be your Tugboat Captain baby’.
I believed that thoroughly when i first heard it and i believe it more than ever now, i didn’t wish i could have written it when i first heard it, but now, absolutely, i wish i had composed this great beautiful twisted love song, time does this to you, changes and all that and i’d say we all need our markers and sometimes old totems reappear as new signposts, i love the eternity of this anyway like i love aesthetic minded beat music here’s Galaxie 500 for Velvet Sheep 500 with Tugboat”
THANKS SO MUCH JOHNY AND THE BAND OF HOLY JOY
You can and definitely should, buy “Dreams Take Flight” here:
and there’s this too, a new re-imagining of many of the tracks plus a live gig from Edinburgh, “Everyone Is Searching For Beautiful Things” (Tiny Global Productions)…