Ajamu X


Big Joanie Rewrite the Rules of Punk, Blending Joy and Resistance On The Defining ‘Back Home’

November 9, 2022

With 2018’s Sistahs Big Joanie cracked the code on crafting music that was radical but inviting, jagged but warm, raw but anthemic. Somehow, despite the meteoric success of the past few years, they’ve crafted a followup that builds on all the strengths of Sistahs, while adding new textures and depths. The scope of their sophomore record Back Home may find the trio at home on larger stages, but the songs still feel true to their DIY roots.



Guitarist / singer Stephanie Phillips describes the heart of the record as one about sense of place. “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.” That idea of home fuels the album’s most joyful moments, reveling in the found families of queer spaces on the album’s centerpiece “In My Arms.” On the synth-driven ballad “I Will” the band ruminates on the act of building a space to belong, singing “You build a house, you build a roof, you build a happy home /  You make it bigger, make it stronger for another soul / And if it doesn’t make it better it’ll fill a hole.”

The synth and drum machines that color in the margins of Back Home add shades to the band’s sound without losing their music’s handmade quality. There’s a delicate balance struck throughout the record, most clearly on the standout post-punk of “Your Words” and “Insecure” that feels intimate and immediate, like the listener is sitting in the room with Big Joanie while they run through their set. This a band who clearly fuel each other’s joy playing music together, there’s polish for days, but still a sense of spontaneity throughout. Even on the acerbic, fuzzed-out “Happier Still,” the trio relishes their interplay, trading riffs with a sense of fun and play that’s tragically rare in heavy music.



The record closes out with a reprise of “In My Arms” before launching into the claustrophobic synth-driven “Sainted.” The epilogue may be their biggest sonic risk, trading their barbed guitars for bubbling synths and tense clipped percussion, but it pays off, proving one of the band’s best ear-worm melodies to date. It’s a song whose ascendant reprise of “after the rain falls” summons the contradictions of destruction and creation. There’s no shortage of music right now that muses on the apocalyptic mood of the moment, but Big Joanie’s latest goes one further, ending with a thought about what could be built on the ashes. Stephanie Phillips ends with an invitation: “You come find me on a quiet street / Where the lavender smells so sweet / After the rain falls.”


Follow Big Joanie on socials @bigjoanieband for more.