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BAND OF HOLY JOY – ‘Land of Holy Joy’ Review

So, the Band of Holy Joy have released their ‘tricky’ 19th album under the delightful, yet sarcastic, title ‘Land of Holy Joy’.  And what an achievement, most probably their best to date and after the 2012 release of ‘How to Kill a Butterfly’ I didn’t think I’d ever whisper such a thing.

Unique doesn’t begin to describe the Band of Holy Joy and yet again they have produced a compilation that compares to no other. Stunning compositions, melancholy and downright depressing, yet somehow offering that ray of light where all is not lost and hope is just around the corner.

Revolving around singer Johny Brown’s adopted home, London, we are taken on a trip of desperation and loneliness (sometimes in graphic detail) yet inspired by a positive attitude that life is worth living in spite of all it throws at us.

Opening with title track ‘Land of Holy Joy’ we encounter classic BOHJ with the mixture of spoken word and harmonised warble. The change from despair to joy between verse and chorus epitomises the album…

“I’m living in the land of holy joy,

Coughing, dancing the lanes,

I am conniving through the land of holy joy,

Toxins coursing through my veins”

The addition of saxophone throughout adds a new dimension to BOHJ’s work. It’s subtle and in your face at the same time and offers a rousing crescendo to the wonderfully titled ‘All the Girls are Wearing Desert Boots of Pale and Subtle Shade’ after Brown delivers the brilliant line “…life can be more than cruelty, property, money, fashion and sport”

‘Violent Drunken Strangers’ is a disturbing spoken track dealing with the world of people trafficking. It’s a very powerful yet harrowing description but again offers hope with the final line “…I just want to go out dancing” and there’s that horn blowing climax again. This is immediately followed up with ‘Discredited Art Form’, an amazing reference where Brown tells us when and why he wrote ‘Violent Drunken Strangers’. It’s all so believable until he mocks us with “…the next thing I knew, I had woken up in A&E with both eyes missing”.

As with ‘When a Gift is a Curse’ from their previous album ‘Easy Listening’, the song that will be on continual loop for me is ‘A Place Called Home’. Dealing with the paradox of feeling alone in a big city….

“A place called home,

That I can call my own,

Where I can be alone,

Surrounded by millions of strangers”

…the chorus is repeated with female vocals and then the subtle sax intervenes to create the perfect harmony.

The album ends with the account of an ageing punk called ‘Crass Harry’. Harry has had a difficult life dealing with wrongful arrest, being diagnosed with cancer and then rehoused. He has a humorous side claiming to never liking Crass (or the Cockney Rejects for that matter) and he cracks the cancer and just won’t throw in the towel…

“I’m living proof of those who live in hope,

Who’s spirit just won’t get broke”


One of the most underestimated bands of our time? Who knows but I for one hope they keep doing what they’re doing. Their uniqueness is what makes them so appealing and albums like this don’t come around that often anymore.

Gaz – Punk Online


Track Listing

  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