Formed from the ashes of an unrecorded ’77 punk band, Speed, Band Of Holy Joy’s initial musical forays were largely in the domain of industrial bricolage and occasional bursts of madness. By the time they began releasing records under their own name in the 1980s, the band’s humanist tendencies came to the fore, with astounding portraits of people on the periphery, resulting in such classics as Rosemary Smith, Mad Dot and Don’t Stick Knives In Babbies Heads. The sharp sensibilities of founder and leader Johnny Brown eventually led to a star-making deal with Rough Trade, a few near hits and career momentum shattered when the label collapsed mere days after what might have been the band’s breakthrough album. Then all went quiet. When Band Of Holy re-emerged at the end of the first decade of the new century, it was on there terms. A fiercely devoted fanbase led to regular, albeit low-key releases. In between ‘real’ jobs, Johnny Brown’s artistic talents moved in multiple directions - theatre, poetry, the ongoing and engaging Bad Punk radio program, participation with other artists such as Richard Strange. Slowly, a new Band Of Holy Joy has blossomed.
Despite all the expected rock ’n roll trappings - Great shows! Killer tunes! Special guests! - the band operate, well, differently. In some aspects, they’re an art collective. Inspired by the possibilities which burst forth after punk, the band’s expression takes many forms. Visual artist Inga Tillere plays a large role in shaping the band’s aesthetic and live events, and in musical foil James Stephen Finn, Johnny’s poetic vision transcends expectations without resorting to desperate reaches into esoterica. Funambulist We Love You may be the first true literary examination of the malaise set forth by Brexit, Trump, the rise of the far-right and a general disenfranchisement from most post-war liberal values. It rarely names any names, and it’s far from strident, but it’s undeniably a record forged by 2017. (And you don’t need to look it up - a funambulist is a tightrope walker - even we’re not sure if that’s a metaphor or simply an obtusely snappy title.) Funambulist comes hot on the heels of The Clouds That Break The Sky, a 3CD boxed set of Band Of Holy Joy’s pre-Rough Trade records of the early to mid-80s.