Band of Holy Joy

Dreams Take Flight

Mr Brown's boys go from strength to strength with new album, Dreams Take Flight

Don’t we want our dreams to take flight right now? And equally don’t we need Band of Holy Joy more than ever before? I’ve realised, that when the opportunity arises, I always herald a Holy Joy album as perfect for the time into which it’s born, kicking, screaming, bawling, and generally causing mischief and mayhem, always for the best reasons. Mind you, this is the band who over thirty years’ ago sang, “They’ve sanctified fear, now they’ll privatise love.” What a tragedy that this wasn’t so much a prescient warning but simply confirmation of an omnipresent threat.

I did see Band of Holy Joy recently described as an ‘acquired taste’. I’d never thought of them in that way. I know they long ago created their own world, like all the best artists do, and maybe that’s a barrier for some but as they deal in the absolute basic questions of humankind’s troubled existence there must surely be a little universal appeal in there somewhere? Maybe lead singer Johny Brown’s displays of raw emotion are a tough call for some in the age of irony layered on irony?

Surveying their path it can seem as though they have existed on some kind of ongoing artistic odyssey. Of course, there have been quiet periods but then they come barrelling back like an old friend turning up unannounced, demanding you drop what you’re doing and come carousing with them, and you know what? You never regret it. The wonderful fact is that for some time now they’ve been in ridiculously rude health, bestowing album after album of unique and vital beauty upon us almost to the point where their past, as rich as it is, seems like a prelude rather than the main act. Which leaves the question of where Dreams Take Flight falls in the arc of their history?

As if in answer, we encounter the beatific ‘A New Clear Vision’. Almost a summing up of the Holy Joy mission, as violins hark back to previous incarnations, Brown sets out his stall with poetic grace, leaving us with Andy Diagram’s elegiac trumpet and the confirmation that we are truly back in the land of Holy Joy. “I’ve always tried to portray the beauty of simply defined things…” Never was a truer word spoken, or sung for that matter.

There is melody in plentiful supply here, even if in seconds it rubs up against searing intensity as in the yearning ‘Take a Leap into the Great Unknown’. Key themes and questions are held up to the light, examined and if not exactly explained then at least put in some form or order, with bruised but defiant hope at the end of the search. The message, if that’s the right word, is to feel, think, act. I think it’s fair to say Brown is not one for the passive response but he is all about showing compassion for the lost,

The elegant beauty of ‘Notes from a Gallery’ sounds unlike anything they’ve done before. Electronics folded gently into the mix, discordant piano leading to spoken word introduction. Then onto questions of existence, belief, and the constant pressure of change within and without us. Via the transformative power of art the protagonist, who was “dying inside” is instead “born again”. That Holy Joy have the power to do the same almost goes without saying, a power thankfully undimmed throughout Dreams take Flight.

This is a band on a quest, facing the brutal reality of life while celebrating it’s blinding glory. In this lies their power, leaving you caught between tears and laughter. Dreams Take Flight is another step into their future. Time to follow if you’re in any doubt.

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