22nd March | Exchange

It’s been a long time coming, and they’re not the exact originals, but legendary Bristol funksters Maximum Joy, now MXMJoY, are back.

Reformed under the original name four years ago after splitting in the early 80s, and having discarded most of the vowels, MXMJoY have taken their early jazzy/funk/post-punk sound into a more ethereal place with their new album P.E.A.C.E. Intriguing to see what they do live then. Janine Rainforth’s oddly effective discordant pitch is still at the helm of MXMJoY, drummer Charlie Llewellin being the only other original member.

They open with an old number, the funky dub of ‘Silent Street’, followed by the trip-hoppy ‘We Breathe’ and the angular funk stalk of ‘Magnetic’. There’s a slight nerve about them in these opening numbers that seems to blow away with the absolute groove of ‘P.E.A.C.E.’ the title track of their album, followed by the chugging guitar-led funk of ‘Searching For A Feeling’and the funk continues.

Most of the material is from the new album but three of the old Maximum Joy numbers stand out, bringing back the feeling of that old 80s punk-funk, that clattering Pigbag-ish Bristol mash of giddy rhythm. The funk of the aforementioned ‘Searching for a Feeling’, the fantastic prowling insistent bass-driven ‘White And Green Place’ and their last number, the high-tempo ‘Stretch’.

This vibe infuses into the newer stuff, adding spark to the dreamier feel, but the occasional drift into, dare I say it, 80s blandness could have been sharpened by original sax and flute player Tony Wrafter’s inventiveness, possibly. No offence to Dan Mays’ blowing, but it didn’t always cut the mustard here.

Llewellin banged the drum synth, standing stage front with Rainforth, creating a bedrock with kit drummer Miroslav Haldina, Marek Bero’s bass and James Byron’s guitar complimenting and creating: a delve into a funky feelgood dubby dreamy landscape topped by Rainforth’s spacey vocals. Her PVC trousers harked back to the genesis of this band, that creative post-punk time when bands magpie-picked influences and stitched them together to create new and exciting music. Maximum Joy’s material was just that, the spirit of it is what imbues the best of MXMJoY’s sound.

Big Jeff down the front was a nodding sign of approval.

Listen to ‘P.E.A.C.E.’ here:

Featured photo also by Elfyn Griffith