Following a successful appearance at Rebellion Punk Music Festival in Blackpool, a copy of the latest album release by Healthy Junkies dropped through my letter box thanks to Royal Mail efficiency. ‘The Lost Refuge’ is another album that had been partially ‘drip fed’ to me thanks to certain tracks being made available pre-release – with my appetite whetted there was no point in waiting to play it, and once unpacked, resistance was not an option; ‘Resistance’ is also the opening track, one of those that I had already heard. With the opening track testing the limits of my stereo I felt so privileged to be able to listen to it – almost like a spoilt brat. OK, it’s time to try to get serious, but the second track (‘Spoilt Brat’) is another that I had previously heard – a glance at the remaining tracks revealed that I should prepare for many new aural experiences, with only one other that I had previously heard, ‘Witches Of Lust’. There was also the promise of something very special by way of Edith Piaf’s (in collaboration with Marguerite Monnot & Louis Guglielmi) ‘La Vie En Rose) – I certainly anticipated something quite different to previous covers by Grace Jones, Donna Summer, and Aretha Franklin. It used to be so simple – you read ‘Sounds’, ‘Melody Maker’ or ‘New Musical Express’ to find out what you could about any exciting new bands and musicians – very occasionally a few of them would appear on ‘Top Of The Pops’ or one of the few other TV music shows; and if you were extremely lucky they might play live somewhere near you. Then, of course there were the vinyl releases which presented magical opportunities to actually hear the music, often in one sitting from first track side one to final track on side two! The album sleeves, particularly the gatefolds, and printed inserts would provide a further layer of information and images. Now it’s all so fragmented – wonderful photos of recent gigs, teaser videos and audio available on platforms such as YouTube and SoundClound – also it is so much easier to cultivate a connection with a band or artist and feel some involvement with them as they work on new albums or participate in tours. Add social media such as FaceBook, Twitter, and others into the mix and ……..well, I’m just so glad to be alive and able to immerse myself in this new interactive on-line world!
‘The Last Refuge’ follows on from then excellent and diverse ‘Sick Note’ and demonstrates a step up to another level.
In their FaceBook profile they describe themselves as a ‘female fronted, new wave, punk, grunge band that are DIY and hungry’ – this seems so simplistic and only just begins to describe them. They absolutely project self-belief and massive determination with obvious elements that would suggest new wave, punk and grunge – but DIY suggests a certain lack of professionalism which is most definitely not true. This album exudes mastered perfection with a raw edge. I have been lucky enough to see them play live where they replicated their recorded sound – I have no reason to doubt that the various songs contained here would sound equally exciting and polished in a live environment. Whilst I can identify a variety of echoes from previous years/decades, this is not to suggest that they are simply seeking to copy other acts – the sound is very current and retains its own distinct validity. That said, I found myself recalling memorable evenings with Gong and Hawkwind live on stage, whilst also remembering the wonderful interaction between Phil and Nina playing live.
In summation, this album is an absolute gem – the music is inspired and varied, with some really great special moments – the circus ringmaster ‘call’ in ‘Scam Update’, the music box interlude (see later), an entertaining duet and some powerful instrumental work to supplement Nina’s wonderful engaging vocals. I usually hesitate from suggesting ‘bests’ as I believe my feelings can often vary with mood, environment and other factors – I do, however, imagine that ‘If You Talk To Her’ will be a very firm favourite for a long time to come.
………. and ‘La Vie En Rose’? Well it certainly pleased – AND was very different from Edith, Grace, Donna and Aretha, starting with a musical box melody before a very brief and frantic pure punk rendition, Nina gives the world yet another dramatic interpretation!
Nina Courson – vocals
Phil Honey-Jones – guitar / keyboard / vocals
Tjay Tarantino – bass guitar
Steve Nightmare – drums
Adam Lewis – drums on ‘Cat Story’
2/ Spoilt Brat
3/ Play Me
4/ Scam Update
5/ If You Talk To Her
7/ La Vie En Rose
8/ Cat Story
9/ Mad Parade
10/ Shine A Line
11/ Witches Of Lust
12/ Coz It Sucks
13/ Sex War