Big Joanie: Back Home – London punks get experimental

(Daydream Library Series)
New styles abound on the trio’s second album, from synth-pop and folk to new wave, with mixed results

Founded in London’s DIY punk scene, British trio Big Joanie return with a newly expansive sound four years after the release of their debut album. Sistahs, released in 2018, was a head-turning record trading in distortion, discordant melodies and nonchalant vocals; their latest, Back Home, is altogether warmer and features a range of newly incorporated styles such as folk and synth-pop.

Opener Cactus Tree sets the tone, with singer and guitarist Stephanie Phillips strumming a psychedelic line over harmonies from bassist Estella Adeyeri and drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone, pairing gothic folk with distorted grunge. That blend of melody and dissonance continues throughout the record, with mixed results. On Confident Man and Count to 10, Phillips’s vibrato-laden vocal sits uncomfortably over a solid synth-drum backing, yet What Are You Waiting For works well, as its keening vocal hook interweaves with thundering guitars and clattering drum rhythms.

It is a brave experimentation through unexpected sounds, including Depeche Mode-style new wave on Sainted, but Big Joanie are on more stable and satisfying ground when they put the glittering melodies aside. It is then – amid the driving anger and yearning chorus of Happier Still – that they find their raw power once more.

Watch the video for Sainted by Big Joanie.


Ammar Kalia

The GuardianTramp

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