A Medway Christmas Alphabet: H is for ‘Holy Man’

‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.

And so, with that in mind, let’s all listen to a song that takes a pop at men of the cloth…

Bob Collins and the Full Nelson - Telescopic Victory Kiss

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about Bob Collins’ contributions to a song about distancing yourself from someone else and moving on. And it seems like only yesterday that I was talking about how that particular guitarist had been part of a band – the Dentists – that celebrated living life in all its fullness.

Oh, wait…

Twenty – that’s twenty – years after the demise of The Dentists, the desire to move forward and an absolute repulsion at being held back remain massive themes for Bob Collins, now fronting Bob Collins and the Full Nelson. See, for a brilliant example, ‘Holy Man’, fresh from his newly released album, Telescopic Victory Kiss.

Collins may be a guitarist first and foremost – it’s no surprise that a guitar takes pride of place on the album cover – and the obvious standout moments on Telescopic…: ‘Sunshine of Your Soul’, ‘Emily’ or ‘Your Star is Fading’, for example, see the ex-Dentist on barnstorming form with his weapon of choice.

But his abilities as a lyricist and vocalist should never be underestimated – as can be proved with the album’s final song which strips everything back to its barest basics.

Just as ‘Beautiful Day’ from The Dentists’ album Heads and How to Read Them, documented exasperation with the imaginatively challenged (‘Only you will ever understand/only things that you can hold in both your hands’) , so too ‘Holy Man’ exposes the fraud of someone who claims to know better: ‘You don’t get just why I feel alive’ runs the song’s opening gambit.

Line by line, the song’s villain is taken down: a man who claims to represent something so big is shown to be staggeringly small: ‘no sign of joy, no trace of menace/paraphernalia – that’s all there is’ goes one particularly telling lyric.

Instead, our hero would prefer to go it alone – feeling alive and making decisions for himself.

It’s a beautiful song – a perfect album closer – and fantastic when performed live; it’ proved to be a highlight (for this writer at least) at the recent launch of Telescopic Victory Kiss.

Despite its sombre mood, despite the accusations and vilifications, ‘Holy Man’ is a fantastically optimistic song, celebrating the possibilities just being alive can present; a humanist’s hymn to human endeavour.


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