In their original, 1980s incarnation, the U.K.’s Band of Holy Joy were Kerouacian gutter poets and closing-time philosophers, cataloguing scenes of doomed romance through a beer glass, darkly. Flailing fervidly at junkshop violins, accordions and trombones (but not guitars), they dreamt up a skew-whiff, gloriously racket-loving buskers fuelled by giddy hedonistic abandon, crafting paeans to the dreamers and human detritus who tumble through the cracks of city life. On How To Kill A Butterfly‘s “Between A Nightingale’s Song And Now,” Holy Joy singer/street preacher Jonny Brown remembers those days of alcohol and adrenaline-driven youthful excess, his voice thick with nostalgia: “We were supra-sensual that year, our instincts were on fire.”
Having split in 1993, the band reformed a decade later, their muse having grown more autumnal, regret-laden, sighing at the dying of the light: “For 35 years now the party has raged,” mourns the now-middle-aged Brown on “The Repentant.” Yet Band of Holy Joy remain high on life, their fervent musical melodrama magnificently intact. “Go Break The Ice” and “Northern” are rich, textured and drenched in melancholic violin, while Brown’s defiant carpe diem spirit survives: “You’re either with life, or it’s against you” he gasps on “Oh What A Thing This Heart Of Man.” Twenty-seven years after they began, Band Of Holy Joy are still crafting febrile symphonies for the lost.