This five track ep represents the musical element of the Band of Holy Joy's "Lucky Thief" project. This was an event conceived for the 50th anniversary of the publication of William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch", an extraordinary book - one of the first to deal with addiction from the inside, & also anticipated/influenced punk by a good 20 years.
Musically, the group provide an ideal backdrop - think Television meet Van Morrison ("Veedon Fleece" period) in Neil Young's back room - for Johny Brown's sung/spoken delivery of the lyrics. There's a lovely balance to the sound, with really deft touches of texture & colour from Chris Brierley's violin. It’s a controlled sound, which makes it all the more effective when they cut loose later.
"Around theCity of Rack & Ruin" takes us into the Burroughs story, and "A Face You'll Never Forget" evokes the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Burroughs' wife Joan (a drunken attempt at recreating the William Tell story with a wine glass & Pistol - don't try this at home...). "The Captain" takes us from this episode to outline some of the writer's main ideas (& links back to Johny's Ancient mariner play, Burroughs cast adrift with Johnny Thunders & Kathy Acker) - in a reading by Chris Brierley - & finally erupts into a cacophony of short wave fx (courtesy Inga Tillere) & distant dubby trombone.
The last track "Conditions Fraught with Peril Here" captures the damp quayside, cheap hotel vibe of addiction perfectly. There's a really good development of ideas & themes through the five songs, & this one really brings everything together.
We were lucky enough to catch the last night of the performance at Shunt, before the act moved off to a triumphant show at a serious Burroughs-fest in
At times the performers had to struggle to overcome some of the limitations & peculiarities of the venue. The performance space really wasn't big enough & it was pretty cramped for the audience - criminal in a venue the size of Shunt. The absence of any Shunt staff on the door meant that for a while there were a lot of distracting interruptions as pink-winged hen parties crashed in & out noisily on their way to the House Anthems all-niter. Not my favourite venue...
The performance we saw was being filmed, so hopefully at some stage there'll be some visual evidence of this fascinating show. "A Lucky thief" is the kind of mixed-media venture which can be very pompous & pretentious if it goes wrong, but Johny & the group aren't afraid to take risks & end up bringing home the prize.
Go to www.bandofholyjoy.co.uk to get the ep (£10 incl p&p). Take a look at some of the other sections while you're there for some cool words & pics - also highly recommend the Radio Joy, 8-9pm on Sunday nights .
Review by Den