Live music is back, and you must grab onto its lapels firmly with both hands. One of my absolute favs as you know if you read these pages regularly is the baleful, insightful wordsmithery of Johny Brown and his Band of Holy Joy. Well, they’re back in London (after garnering recent rave reviews) for a show at the Powerhaus (which is not at the Angel these days where I once ran the entire stationary escalator with my dad much to our breathless chagrin to go and see a gig with the Underground Lovers). These days it’s at Camden Lock (near where I had to duck away from skateboarders while interviewing Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren) and a stones throw from the TVAM egg cups on the MTV building where I spent a lot of my formative years. Unlike me, the Band of Holy Joy have matured very nicely indeed. With a bagful of new tunes from their soaring “Dreams Take Flight” superhumanifesto (see below for a song by song review) it’s sure to be a treat, and given that JB has persuaded Richard Strange of the Doctors of Madness to play some of his back cat in a suitably esoteric style (with a bill including poetry/electronic kaleidoscopics from the Vagrant Lovers and folk duo I See Islands from Johny’s old stomping ground – North Shields) it’s one not to be missed.
Grab the tickets here
and check out Johny’s recent “song for ewe” – our 500th ever…
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is someone who if you’re not already a follower let me proselytize some more, as it’s a welcome return to these pages of a lyrical warrior, indie evangelist, super-connector and surely alternative national treasure, Band of Holy Joy’s Johny Brown.
Band of Holy Joy have a new album out called “Dreams Take Flight” which is an apt description of the way Johny’s voice makes your heart soar as we all hope for a return to the semblances of humanity: actual look-at-you-in-the-eyes, embrace-you-in-a warm-hug humanity. That’s not to say his words don’t have their feet on terra-firma, or shy away from the harsh realities and socio-politico proclivities of a world divided.
BOHJ have been on a rich vein of form for some time, coinciding with their releases on our fav label Tiny Global, and it’s fair to say that “Dreams Take Flight” is an absolute high water-mark, a piece de resistance for a band leader who is always sublime, never benign or asinine.
Johny has also been an inspiration for me for a long time (embryonic, much documented on these pages early gig at the Marquee in the 90s) but he’s also been an advocate, having me as a guest on his legendary Resonance FM show BAD PUNK and getting me in the door and on the air at outsider radio station / community The Neon Hospice for which I’m very grateful. And he often takes time to link me up with like minded souls be it bands like The Casual Sexists or incredible labels like the lathe cut kings Dog Tunnel, cos that’s the kind of encouraging artiste/instigator he is. Which is why we are delighted to invite back to choose a momentous 500TH SONG FOR EWE – Johny Brown!
Never ones to plough the regular band promo furrow, Band of Holy Joy launched “Dreams Take Flight” in Gallery 46, Whitechapel with a multi-media onslaught of live streamed performance art, DJ-ing, spoken word and a series of new videos by and including kindred souls including Fliss Kitson (‘Gales), Gil De Ray, Tam Burn, Kirsty Allison, Inga Tillere (BOHJ) and Jonny Mugwump (Neon Hospice) to cherry pick a few in the extended Band.
Here’s the one from Inga…with a stand out track from the album “That Magic Thing”…
…and the one from VS fav Fliss…
“Dreams Take Flight” is a right-now commentary on post-viral malaise but also a beacon of hope, Johny Brown it’s absolute touch point. He’s the right man, right now to sing to our very soul from a band that have always been happy to walk the margins but who seek to reach the stars.
Here’s a quick track by track precis:
“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.
Anyway enough of my florid spoutings, here’s a video from Tam Dean Burn for “On Set Romance”…decide for yourself…
And what of Johny’s latest song pick, the 500th (can’t quite believe it) in our long-running feature? It’s full of forethought and killer taste of course. Without further ado, here’s Johny’s “song for ewe”…
“This is my choice:
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”
I SALUTE YOU JOHNY BROWN MY MAN, MANY THANKS AGAIN
Here’s another “Dreams Take Flight” video from Gil De Ray and featuring Kirsty Allison (Cold Lips)…
You can buy Band of Holy Joy “Dreams Take Flight” here and the physical stuff ships on/around now…
TICKETS FOR THE GIG HERE