wears the trousers magazine

joan as police woman: cover (2009)
September 21, 2009, 9:39 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , , ,


Joan As Police Woman

Covers albums get a bad deal. With recent releases such as Scarlett Johansson’s Anywhere I Lay My Head gaining a barrage of truly undeserved cynicism, and older offerings like Odetta Sings Dylan being nowhere near as acclaimed as they should be, it’s only the irritatingly polished Live Lounge warblings that seem to make their way into a wider field of vision. This is bad. So, Joan As Police Woman. Brilliant. Covers album. Yes. Result? Half-baked.

COVER is certainly an exciting prospect. Former Antony & The Johnsons member Joan Wasser has proved to be one of our more enticing singer-songwriters in the last few years, and here she applies her delicate stylings to tracks by the likes of Adam & The Ants, David Bowie and Public Enemy, to name but a few; the variety alone being enough to build up quite an impressive level of anticipation. Fans will already be aware of Wasser’s live rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’, and you couldn’t do much better for an opening track. The unavoidable sexuality of the original is stripped back to its barest bones, putting us on a stool in a backwoods bar where bourbon and cigarettes are the only things on offer. Shades of early Portishead can be forgiven here. Hypnotic and arresting, this is the soundtrack to a Tarantino-style lapdance that’s packing a pistol.

Still, it’s not surprising that other parts of COVER fall short of the standard we’ve come to expect; Wasser denotes the lust and melancholy of her previous albums with so much ease and sincerity. There’s no denying she can hold her own with the words of others, and the sparse production on the majority of tracks gives COVER the rawer feel of the bluesy inflections she’s known for, and her gift for being able to swagger as well as lament also stands up to the varying backgrounds of grating guitars, unsteady drums and occasional electronic breaks that make up the record. Nevertheless, the creeping thought that we might be better off with some of PJ Harvey’s mellower moments, as opposed to the occasional strands of limpness here, can’t be avoided. The natural expectancy of hearing Wasser’s takes on T-Pain and Britney Spears is met with a hollowness that begs for the gusto of, say, ‘How Come You’re So Solid Gold?’, leaving one to mull over the missed opportunities.

It’s Wasser’s quiet arrest of Nina Simone’s ‘Keeper Of The Flame’ that brings COVER back to life, and ultimately lays it to rest as the album’s closing track. A song already borne of torturous desire, Wasser’s vocal lilts and strays over the simple guitar, leaving a chill to the air and a ghost in the room. So, while COVER may not the best introduction to Wasser for those not already familiar with her original albums (and it’s certainly not aimed at such folks), seasoned fans will no doubt be entranced by much of what’s on offer. It’s just something of a comedown after the dark charm of what we’ve heard previously, and although its shining instances are more than worthy of attention, one can’t help but think the whole ensemble could have used another whiskey or two.

Ryan Child
Available exclusively on Joan’s current European tour; see www.myspace.com/joanaspolicewoman for dates.


2 Comments so far
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Couldn’t agree more.

Comment by Case

[…] Richardson Andrews 1/7] 38 Jewel – Lullaby [Matt Barton 8/7] 39 Joan As Police Woman – COVER [Ryan Child 21/9] 40 Diane Birch – Bible Belt [Alex Ramon […]

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