1. The Land Of Holy Joy/2.Isn’t That Just The Life/3. All The Girls Are Wearing Desert Boots Of Pale And Subtle Shade/4. Men Who Display A Different Kind Of Pain/5. Violent Drunken Strangers/6.Discredited Art Form/7. A Good Close Friend/8. A Place Called Home/ 9. I’m Crass Harry

Release Date: September 21, 2015

A Night Of Word And Blood Sparked Under Fire And Stars A Petrol Smear The Concrete Tear Fuck Yeah Brutalism Still Dreaming In The Land Of Holy Joy ( or The Land Of Holy Joy‘for short)

BOHJ…is the title of the new brainchild of Band Of Holy Joy following ‘the release of ‘Easy Listening in 2014 and the mini album ‘The North Is Another Land before that.I have to admit that one should be extremely cautious when talking about a favourite band as Band Of Holy Joy is to me. I will not start elaborating on how easy it is to be objective in such a case.  I will admit though, that being able to distance oneself from a positive predisposition towards someone or something, is an interesting exercise for the brain. I have seen Band of Holy Joy perform live a few times lately in London, the city which is the base of this band as it is here that they were formed in 1983. That was the year that the band self released the album called Favourite Fairytales For Juvenile Delinquents in cassette format.18 albums and 32  years later Band Of Holy Joy offer  one more memorable album to their loyal audience.If we perceive the music of  Band Of Holy Joy as a giant puzzle with a million pieces, then each album and each performance of this band since 1983 adds one more piece to this puzzle. This is not a puzzle with one central scene but one which only makes sense once it is finished just like the paintings of the Cubists which can only be perceived from a distance and only when they are finished!The band’s split in 1992 and its reformation in 2002 culminated in the release of the album Paramour in 2010 through the band’s own label, Radio Joy. This album marked a radical, conscious and intentional shift in the music of the band and its influences making a homage to the songwriters of New York during the 1960s. However one thing withstood the passage of time. The timely and always socially sensitive nature of the stories that the band is narrating through the songs. In every album since 1983 either by embracing punk either by alluding to the english folk music tradition, Band Of Holy Joy manages to simulate, the feeling of someone who stares at an empty carousel with its lights open and the music still on; a feeling of great hopelessness and endless optimism. Drawing inspiration from and finding similarities between our reality and the stories of William Burroughs, Bertolt Brecht and Guillaume Apollinaire, the Band of Holy Joy manages to stress the lyrical, the violent, the sarcastic, the cynical and the hopeful aspects of our lives and delineate the image of a carefree child who plays with his/her toys oblivious to the complexities and the sadness of life.

We always try to work from a position of chaos and despair to one of harmony and balance. And if we manage to get there, we then do our best to work our way back, from the position of harmony and balance to one of chaos and despair. We get to stop at many weird stations along the way…One thing is for sure and something we were SO conscious of, is that we wanted to be rid of the old Holy Joy sound, the big band sound, I mean we were had with it. We were after something much more personal and intimate. A whisper to break a curse is what we were after(excerpt from an interview with Johny Brown for the webzine postwave.gr)

The themes of this album

All the girls in town wear desert boots of pale and subtle shades…all the buggers on the street know the value of what you give…but life can be more than cruelty, property, money, fashion and sports…(lyrics from the song: ‘All The Girls Are Wearing Desert Boots Of Pale And Subtle Shade‘)

The sparks of inspiration for the urban melancholic stories that Band of Holy Joy is narrating, are found in observations on the reality of life in the mega city of London. Although London and its alternating, resonating frequency can be identified as the primary source of inspiration for the lyrics, the music and the performance give a wider appeal to the story, expanding their ideas and concerns to audiences all around the modern world. The band filters a myriad of elements from everyday circumstances and draws our attention to some details that are treated poetically and others that are presented with theatricality in order to make us think about them in our own invigorating ways. Our attention is focused on urban characters that we otherwise ‘meet’ every day on the street but we might have never put their behavior in a wider perspective.As always the lyrics of the songs mask cleverly existential questions.

…I’ll trade all of my joy for some of your sorrow. I am a sensitive girl but I’m tougher than you… (lyrics from the song: ‘Isn’t That Just The Life‘)

The video that accompanies the song entitled ‘Isn’t That Just The Life’ is illuminating on what concerns some of the wider ideas that are present in this album. Against the backdrop of the glass towers of London, the cranes and the fast motorways that characterize movement in and out of big cities, we see Johny Brown in front of a colourful graffiti holding the book ‘The Haight Ashbury- A History’ by Charles Perry, while he sings ‘Isn’t that Just the Life’. This book, having as a starting point the city of San Francisco in the late 1960s, deals with the positive impact of a cultural revolution to people’s thinking. The following phrase that appears towards the end of this video alludes to the dystopian future of the big cities should they continue to grow and control without limit our fears and our desires.

‘The inhabitants drifted away leaving the town to collapse into ruins’

An album that looks back in order to inspire the thinking of today

The Land Of Holy Joy‘ is a calmer album compared to ‘Easy Listening’ in terms of how the songs are being performed.The common element with the previous album is conceptual and relates with the verse “…the City is a bitch…” that Johny Brown was singing in ‘I have Travelled The Buses Late At Night’. Architects and urban planners have been preoccupied for centuries with the notion that a city is a very complex and mysterious organism who presents multiple problems to its inhabitants. The question of whether it is the size of the city or its political purpose that makes life in it difficult, has also concerned writers of fiction novels throughout the ages. I find that through the stories of this album we are presented with a more comprehensible and realistic view of the same idea.

In ‘The Land Of Holy Joy’ backing vocals are less prominent than in the previous album and it seems that with the exception of ‘Violent Drunken Strangers’, ‘A Good Close Friend‘ and ‘I’m Crass Harry‘, the rather confrontational, almost protesting performing style has been replaced by a more lyrical performance that brings to mind the calmness of Joan Baez. The inclusion of a recurring oriental sound inspired by eastern music after 23 seconds, in the very first song ‘The Land Of Holy Joy‘  and the narrating performing style of the lyrics (found again in ‘Discredited Artform‘) mark the different character of this album compared to the previous one. This song, together with ‘A Place Called Home‘, has been included in the setlists of the band for quite some time and we have been lucky to preview them accompanied by captivating visuals (courtesy of Inga Tillere) in live performances before the release of this album.We notice similar influences from eastern music in the theme of ‘Men Conditioned’. I liked the role of the trombone in ‘Isn’t That Just The Life’ and the juxtaposition with the  synth samples between 2.20-2.30 within the song. Similar samples can be heard in ‘Men Conditioned’ after 30 seconds and at the end and I think that these samples bring with them something from the fascination of krautrock and the exploration of space that characterized life in the late 1960s.

…I am deriving through the land of holy joy to find utopia once again… (lyrics from the song: ‘The Land Of Holy Joy‘)

This album is mostly based on the electric guitar and the bass as the rhythms bring with them something from the music of TV commercials and the music found in the movies of the 1960s (after 2.40 minutes in ‘Discredited Artform’, at the theme of ‘A Good Close Friend’, at the theme and the style of the backing vocals in ‘A Place Called Home’). The violin and the trombone in ‘All The Girls Are Wearing Desert Boots’ together with the rhythm which is being played in ‘Men Conditioned’, replicate the melancholy that accompanied the abundance of opportunities, technologies and goods that saw the light  in modern world during the 1960s. Jazz music seems to have inspired the band (notice the rhythm of the bass in ‘Violent Drunken Strangers’) that makes space for heavier guitar playing at my favorite song (i.e. ‘A Good Close Friend’) from this album.I particularly liked the rhythmic and stylistic changes, the melodies and lyrics in this song.

Cleaner air, spectacular views, with the things down there that happen on the news. A living lifestyle close to the heart of the city…A place called home, that I can call my own where I can be alone, surrounded by millions of strangers.Creator of flexible workspace, nothing here to worry me, space to relax, energy efficient. Can I be a part of this?…From a native to a hipster I say to you ‘Son, take pride in the things you do.Never run.  Don’t be casual in the things you throw away…And it’s not where you’re going and where you’re from that matters around these parts.Nothing beats a pure and loving heart… (lyrics from the song: ‘ A Place Called Home‘).

I don’t think there is anyone who will not be touched and will not feel that the lyrics of ‘A Place Called Home’ refer to him/her. With soothing melodies Johny Brown brings to us all the sadness and the detachment experienced by everyone in the big cities where things matter only when they can make the headlines on the news and desires are only met if they are aligned with big economic/political profits. The verse ‘…don’t be casual in the things you throw away…’ has become my new motto from the moment I heard this song. Try not to be emotional and you will be restricting your feelings to no avail. I have always believed that one can’t really understand anything about a band before seeing them perform live. Johny Brown is an emotionally generous performer who makes a confession from the heart when he sings. It is the quality of being direct and sincere while performing, that heightens and deeply communicates the meaning of every word of the lyrics to the audience. While listening to this album I recalled the live performance of some of its songs and their impact was amplified immediately. The album finishes with the song called ‘Crass Harry’, a story about a character that faces social inequality in so many levels yet he still retains his sense of humor that cracks bones and makes him and everyone else around him, wiser by each minute of interaction as he shouts that he ‘feels alright’ as it is ‘Saturday night’.

…the woman from the council arrived at my door. She said they would relocate me I’d be gone in the moor.Said ‘I wanted to die in this place I was born…She said ‘Harry you haven’t got a choice. You never even had a voice.They would lock me away I would be forced to stay I would always laugh and crack a joke we’ll see whose spirit gets broke… (lyrics from the song: ‘I’m Crass Harry’)

I tip my hat to you Band Of Holy Joy as I feel enlightened and optimistic after listening to this album. I find that the concept of using references from the 60s in order to draw attention to burning contemporary issues manages to emphasize excessively both the positive and the saddest elements of our lives. After listening to these lyrics, we can only contemplate on them in various creative ways.

….Don’t be casual in the things you throw away…

Blaue Rosen box


You can listen and purchase the album ‘Land Of Holy Joy’ from the official bandcamp page of Band Of Holy Joy here: https://bandofholyjoy.bandcamp.com/album/the-land-of-holy-joy

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