JOAN AS POLICEWOMAN – ” Damned Devotion “

Posted: January 5, 2019 in MUSIC
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I’ll be honest, I loved Joan As Police Woman‘s first album (Real Life from 2006), liked the second one (2008’s To Survive) and then slightly lost track. 2011’s The Deep Field and 2014’s The Classic had their moments but ultimate didn’t really do it for me, while Benjamin Lazar Davis collaboration Let It Be Me was bought, filed but shamefully I ‘forgot’ to listen to it…

Cue the power of a good old fashioned ‘catchy’ song. While a pop chart hit is fairly much out of the question these days, for an artist like Joan As Police Woman, the quality of first single ‘Tell Me’ was more than apparent. Like much of the album, the song concerns communication. It’s a plea for articulation, expression and directness. Literally, ‘tell me what you want and I can try and give it to you.’  There’s something fantastic about the honesty of the sentiment, and the economy and relatively simplicity of the arrangement.

JAPW’s Joan Wasser has an incredible singing voice, but prefers understatement rather than over the top vocal gymnastics. ‘Tell Me’ is slinky delight and memorable enough that my kids were singing along to it when I ‘forced’ my playlists on them on holiday in the summer!

But one song does not a good album make and I think there’s two key things at play here that make the Damned Devotion such a success. Joan’s adventurousness, in terms of experimenting and ‘beat-making’ at her Brooklyn home has really paid off and at the same time she has just hit a rich vein of form and written and produced an incredibly intimate long-player full of moving and memorable songs. It’s a very pure album – it feels like musical and lyrical ideas have flowed straight from Wasser (with the help of trusted collaborators like Kindred Parker) right onto the grooves of the vinyl, unencumbered by a band working out arrangements in a traditional studio environment, where something excellent can inadvertently be shorn of its magic.

Opener ‘Wonderful’ is a delicate rose with electric piano, beats and lots of atmosphere. That song semi-segues into ‘Warning Bell’, where Joan muses about missing the tell-tale signs in a relationship and how she ‘never sees it coming’ into a pillow-soft arrangement.

There’s some exciting rhythms in a more funky middle section with ‘Steed (for Jean Genet)’ and in particular ‘The Silence’ which continues the album’s lyrical themes (“we have so much to say, why don’t we say it?”). One highlight here is the chanting middle eight, which ends with a blistering and satisfying distorted guitar solo.

‘Valid Jagger’ has beautiful melody that sucks you in and a lovely organ denouement, while ‘What Was It Like’ is a moving tribute to Joan’s Dad. ‘Talk About It Later’ is another funky number with an amusing lyric (“later as in 2020…”) and ‘Silly Me’ and ‘I Don’t Mind’ are the ‘come down’ tracks and complete the album.

This is one of those life-changing records. It is that good. Sit back and listen to all 12 tracks from start to finish and you’ll discover that Damned Devotion messes with your body. It gets under your skin, squeezes your heart and perhaps occasionally stirs the loins. It’s Joan As Police Woman’s best album

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