A joyful, raucous ode to the past, present and their undoubtedly bright future, black feminist punks Big Joanie explore what it means to truly belong on their second album, Back Home. The trio have expanded on the lo-fi punk cacophonies that formed their debut album Sistahs, and have introduced bold, bright synth textures and the altruistic violin sounds of experimental art-rock artist No Home across the record. The result is still distinctively Big Joanie, but they sound bigger and better than before.
Recorded at Hermitage Works Studios and produced and mixed by Margo Broom, the songs on Back Home were influenced by everything from gothic folklore tales, a challenging essay titled Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, to the band’s experiences of playing larger venues with musical heroes Bikini Kill, Skunk Anansie and Sleater-Kinney. The thread that binds these elements together is Stephanie Phillips, Estella Adeyeri, and Chardine Taylor-Stone’s collective ruminations on their different ideas of what “home” means.
Whether it’s a physical place here in the UK, back in Africa or the Caribbean, or whether the notion of “home” is in fact intangible and less concrete; this search for belonging led the band to create the vibrant sounds on their second album, and in the process, they’ve shown that they truly belong in the vital, more equal punk scene that they have worked so hard to nurture, both on and off stage.
The trio fully embrace their post-punk gothic tendencies from the offset on Back Home, from the swirling guitar FX of the beguiling opener ‘Cactus Tree’, which compliments the anticipation of character Steph sings of, up until the Wicca and Orisha worship inspired sounds of closer ‘Sainted’. They balance euphoric, chant-worthy tunes like ‘In My Arms’, the defiant ‘What Are You Waiting For’ and cathartic ‘Happier Still’ with more introspective tracks across the record. The reflective nature of ‘Insecure’, the yearning ‘I Will’, the con-man inspired ‘Confident Man’, and the poignant musings on synth-soaked track ‘Your Words’ all command listeners attention in their own unique way.
Like Angelica Ellis’ altruistic artwork that adorns the cover – which is a nod to the embroidered wall hangings popular in Caribbean homes post-Windrush, and depicts Chardine’s nephew at the barbers – Big Joanie have tenderly and intricately weaved personal and political threads into Back Home. As activists and role models who formed their own musical foundations in the DIY punk scene, the band have proved themselves to be a formidable force for change, truly devoted to creating a home and a space for others who have felt displaced or ignored in the past.
Back Home is a wonderful expression of joy and defiance, by a band dedicated to spotlighting the art and experiences of black, queer women, and a rousing call to arms for their allies to do the same.
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Photo Credit: Ajamu X