The rough-and-tumble British acoustic unit Band of Holy Joy formed in the New Cross area of London in 1984. Led by singer Johny Brown, the group -- which also included trombonist Adrian Bailey, drummer Bill Lewington, keyboardist/banjoist Big John, violinist Karel Van Bergen, accordionist Alf Thomas, and double bassist Mark Cavener -- created a uniquely English urban folk sound free of guitars, which brought frequent comparisons to their Irish counterparts the Pogues; while steeped in the grit and grime of London street life, Brown's songs were uplifting and optimistic, a call to arms against the oppressions of Thatcherism.
Upon signing to the small indie label Flim Flam, the Band of Holy Joy debuted in 1986 with the EP The Big Ship Sails, followed in 1987 by the full-length More Tales from the City. The group signed to Rough Trade for 1988's "Tactless" single; the next year's Manic, Magic, Majestic won widespread critical acclaim, but the commercial breakthrough projected for 1990's Positively Spooked -- an LP backed by a promotional tour of the U.S.S.R. -- never materialized. The 1991 collapse of Rough Trade further derailed the group's momentum, and 1992's Tracksuit Vendetta -- recorded as simply Holy Joy -- quickly disappeared from sight. After a final single, "It's Lovebite City," the group disbanded in 1993. Brown later became a freelance journalist, and in 1995 he and Bill Lewington formed Superdrug.
In 2002, Johny Brown re-formed Band of Holy Joy and released the album Love Never Fails. Since that time, the band has remained active, recording and touring intermittently. A compilation, Leaves That Fall in Spring, appeared in 2007, followed by the full-length studio effort Paramour in 2010. 2011's How to Kill a Butterfly arrived after a Greek tour and an appearance at that year's Glastonbury festival, and in 2012 the band released The North Is Another Land via German independent record label Moloko Plus. Easy Listening and the Land of Holy Joy arrived in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and in 2017, they issued a new EP, Brutalism Begins at Home. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi