Band of Holy Joy: Dreams Take Flight
DL | LP | CD
Out 18th June 2021
Band of Holy Joy return with a passionate and grandly melodic new album.
It’s 2021 and Johny Brown has never sounded more alive. The eternally youthful leader of Band of Holy Joy has somehow managed to reverse the traditional artistic arc of most songwriters and performers by producing his most vital work almost four decades after the formation of the group in South London.
Dreams Take Flight finds Brown exploring the strange, dream-like mind-state of the pandemic lockdown of the last year, perfectly articulating the existential dilemmas and frustrations that united us all during the strangest year many of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Arguably the most lushly melodic Band of Holy Joy album to date, Dreams Take Flight consists of eight perfect and purposeful songs that stretch out as long as required as Brown explores his themes like a post-punk Issac Hayes or Van Morrison. Co-writer James Stephen Finn excels as Brown’s main songwriting foil, but there are no passengers in this musically adept group.
Indeed, Dreams Take Flight invites comparisons with both Hot Buttered Soul and Astral Weeks, in terms of its heady, melodic intensity. Lyrically, it feels like Brown has reached the pinnacle of the themes he has been exploring in an incredible run of recent albums, asking questions about the nature of existence itself and finding epiphanic wonder in the minutiae of everyday life.
Opening track, This is the Festival Scene, features Brown’s lyrics at their wittiest, as the singer spins a playfully surreal and satirical yarn of a music festival that goes badly wrong, over a compellingly cinematic backing. It’s classic Band of Holy Joy, with Brown’s trademark vocals wilfully flitting between 60’s crooner and post-punk spoken word.
The surging chorus of second track A Leap Into the Great Unknown could well be a distillation of Brown’s passionate beliefs: “Take a leap into the great unknown, we don’t have to face this thing alone”, the singer urges. There’s a similar positive romanticism to That Magic Thing, buoyed on another killer chorus featuring the refrain “Love is a healing force, love is a thing that heals”.
In fact, every track on this album hits hard, with wise, heartfelt lyrics and melodies that you’ll want to listen to again and again. “To live is to choose”, Brown declares on Notes From a Gallery “but to choose well, you must know who you are.” Elsewhere, The Rhythm of Life finds a bruised and battered Brown questioning whether political activism (and perhaps artistic endeavour) can ever be meaningful, eventually concluding that the mere act of personal commitment creates something powerful in a communal setting.
Dreams Take Flight may have been forged in the disorienting strangeness of pandemic lockdown, but Band of Holy Joy have created a strikingly beautiful and uplifting album, timeless in nature, and marbled with perceptive insights into the human condition.
UPCOMING BAND OF HOLY JOY LIVE DATES 2021 Wednesday 4th August – Sydney and Matilda (Sheffield) Thursday 5th August – Sneaky Pete’s (Edinburgh) Friday 6th August – Stereo (Glasgow) Saturday 7th August – 3 Tanners Bank (North Shields) Friday 13th August – The Thunderbolt (Bristol) Saturday 14th August – The Piper (St Leonards) Saturday 16th October – Westgarth Social Club (Middlesbrough) More to be announced soon.
Cover art design and photography by Inga Tillere.
This is the Festival Scene film produced and edited by Yard Heads. Director of Photography – Gabi Norland.
That Magic Thing film by Inga Tillere.
This Rhythm of Life film by Fliss Kitson.
All words by Gus Ironside, 2021. More writing by Gus can be found here.