Album Reviews

Big Joanie – Back Home

(Daydream Library Series) UK release date: 4 November 2022

Girls invented punk rock, and the world can never have enough black intersectional feminism, and these are absolute facts

Big Joanie - Back Home Girls invented punk rock, yeh? And surely there are none-more-punk girls than London’s kick ass all-black girl group Big Joanie, sliding in with a cigarette, an oversized leather jacket and a sneer to offer us their second album Back Home. The follow up to 2018’s Sistahs, out through Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s Daydream Library Series, pushes the black feminist punk band into a rather more shoegazey space; soaked with the traditional grungy vocals laced with Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and ’60s pop girl groups as a chaser. And hey; we’re absolutely not mad about it.

Opener Cactus Tree is a goth-folk wicker man tinged ballad to love lost (maybe intentionally?) with revolving synths that echo the passage of time. Taut, a love letter to fucking up over and over again, pairs ’90s distorted guitars with Stephanie Phillips’ claustrophobic, charismatic and uncomfortable vocals. This is a tension that continues, in some form or another, across the rest of the album. Confident Man layers synths and vocals in place of handclaps in a way that’s unique to contemporary sounds. Even in more former-Joanie sounding tracks like Happier Still the sound is refreshing and unique. This is the sound of emerging from lockdown facing the new world with power, honesty and a face that’s fresh and maybe a little more coloured by the pressure of unending boredom.

A quick note goes to stand-out track Sainted, one that feels like it stepped out of the ’80s goth club – Depeche Mode beeps and boops flutter against Cure-esque, jagged candyfloss chorus just begging on its knees for electro-club remixes. Not out of place in the Blitz club, you’ll find this one touching up its lipstick using a broken shop door – a welcome companion for film credits or at least a training montage, or a slow motion run towards a lover in the rain. Throw it up against Here Comes The Rain Again and you wouldn’t miss a beat.

There’s something of a melancholy tone to Back Home, the title itself referencing a search for a place to call home, whether real or metaphysical. “We were really ruminating on the idea of a home and what it means,” explains Phillips in the press release. “It’s about the different ideas of home, whether that’s here in the UK, back in Africa or the Caribbean, or a place that doesn’t really exist; it’s neither here nor there.”

All in all, this is a more mature, deeper developed sound for the band and will help us warm the cold depths of winter through toe-tapping riffs and clever lyrics. Which is no surprise, considering the band’s towering work, both personal and ethical, outside of the band in the four years since their debut. This is a sound more confident in its niche, and long may it reign because the world can never have enough black intersectional feminism, and that is an absolute fact. Extra props to the excellent cover art by British artist Angelica Ellis.

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Big Joanie – Back Home