Tuesday, February 06, 2018
Album Review :: Joan As Police Woman - Damned Devotion
Joan As Police Woman
February 9 2018 (Play It Again Sam/Pias)
Words: Davey Blade
'Damned Devotion' is Joan Wasser’s fifth album as Joan As Police Woman and is a triumph in writing that touches upon levels of raw honesty, with songs that express uncertainty and acceptance of the ephemeral quality of human experience, that move the listener through feelings of hope, laughter, tears and love.
The album kicks off with a beautifully haunting soulful number called ‘Wonderful’ which is reminiscent of Al Green; expressing a sense of being lost in the moment. The tone in which Wasser sings expresses a sense of letting go of the past and opening up to new beginnings. The sweet and soothing tones are accompanied by a Portishead pulsating drum sound that weaves naturally with the vocals, and bond strange sounds together with real emotional force.
'Warning Bell', a song about not seeing what might come next and perhaps based on this karmic tendency, utilizes inventive drum machine programming and keyboards evoking the sound of the hands on a clock turning, and perhaps the circular nature of repeating the same mistakes. The hypnotically soulful 'Tell Me Tell Me' is a number full of softness and warmth. The call and response quality of the vocals makes you feel that Wasser is exhorting the other person or herself to listen to their inner voice, to do that which will make them truly fulfilled and happy, and isn’t dependent on another’s expectations.
'Steed (for Jean Genet)' is reminiscent of the funk groove of Prince’s 'Paisley Park'. A dizzying sensual tune that compels the listener to lose themselves in the persuasive beat, as if being driven by physical appetite rather than spiritual need; while the title track makes great use of programmed drums to create a sound like a person being both enslaved by the affections of another but and at the same time enthralled by that attachment, and unable to break free.
The wonderfully atmospheric number 'The Silence' uses repetitive drum beats and repeated phrases to expresses the fear and inhibition of revealing the truth and the inevitable consequences. Exaggerated by the disturbing repeated phrase of ‘the silence’ it accentuates the exact opposite as it reaches a deafening crescendo. One of the highlights of the album.
Elsewhere, ‘Talk About It Later’ has the qualities of an Alabama Shakes song with a great soulful groove and rock guitar sound, ending up with just the bass sound complemented by great backing vocals; ‘Silly Me’ too has a similar feel with spartan guitar and keys that accentuates the self-reflective quality of the song. 'I Don’t Mind' completes the album with echoing drum and words that encourage the listener to see there are no sureties in life, and experience can teach us lots if we choose to learn from what life throws at us.
What one is left with when hearing the songs on 'Damned Devotion' is just how well Wasser articulates the contradictions in life that drive as well as bind; and the individual's ability to create personal purpose against the odds. It’s an exhilarating album that takes the listener on a journey of emotional exploration and discovery.