What do you do when you’re bored of being alone? You find someone to hang with. And that’s exactly what Joan Wasser has done. Known under the stage name Joan As Police Woman, the multi-instrumentalist has, four solo albums down the line, paired up with Benjamin Lazar Davis, another multi-instrumentalist who currently performs with Okkervil River, Cuddle Magic and Bridget Kearney. The result is this collection of snacky, if slightly tortured music cookies.
The reasons why people get together can sometimes be as random as the tunes they end up making. In the case of Joan and Benjamin, it was reportedly over African Pygmy musical patterns. But although the these patterns are supposed to have ‘loosely’ inspired the music on the album, it sounds like it was so loose that the patterns fell through the cracks. In reality, it’s Joan that comes through thick and fast; a Joan invigorated. So if you heart JAPW, then there’s lots of fall in love with here.
‘Station’, the album’s closer, could have been plucked from one of her first two albums. “Anticipation drives me to my madness / But it’s all for the love of you,” she intones soulfully, sweeping over the top of the music in melancholic cracks and whispers. A bluesy guitar and a warm bed of strings provides the support before the drums burst in with a John Bonham fortissimo. This track is one of the best things we’ve heard from Joan in a long time.
Other moments where the Joan algorithm seems to be running the computer include the coda of ‘Violent Dove’ – which she sends off with an mystical incantation of the haunting ‘this is the blood of love’ – and the mix of guitar, Fender Rhodes and menacing melody in ‘Magic Lamp’. But what about Benjamin? This is an album of two hearts, after all. Well, he only comes to the fore a few times. ‘Overloaded’ is perhaps his most standalone moment, and the contrast of hearing his more obvious vocal delivery and the rush of a more chart-friendly, MOR chorus, creates a bit of a dip. But elsewhere, he beefs up the sound nicely and it’s in these moments where Joan’s cooking gets an extra spice of character that the album works best.
‘Broke Me In Two’, which you can already find online, is a good place to start if you’re looking for a sampler. Overall though, it’s a case of ‘good to have you back Joan’, and ‘next time, let’s have a bit more you and little less Lazar Davis’.
Words: Joe Heaney
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