Joan As Police Woman – Damned Devotion
Joan Wasser feels reinvigorated on Damned Devotion and, as with her debut, this is one we’ll be coming back to
When Joan Wasser stepped out from underneath the umbrella of Antony and the Johnsons back in 2006 as Joan As Police Woman, she delivered one of the best debuts of that year in the shape of Real Life. Ah, we wondered, was Joan a new Patti, a new Kate, a new PJ? Subsequent albums served to dampen the enthusiasm somewhat. Joan was just Joan, and that was what she served up each time, in ever diminishing circles.
And now here we are in 2018, with Damned Devotion, her seventh album if you include Let It Be You, the upbeat electro-pop collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis, and she has at least changed things up a little. Her arrangements, which were never fussy, are now mordantly stripped back. On album opener Wonderful and its immediate neighbour Warning Bell, you wonder if she’s been listening to The xx (and if The xx listened to her prior to their debut, such is the echo chamber).
It isn’t until Tell Me, a song with drums and a bass (an instrument Wasser has been known to eschew in the past), that you think, okay, yes, I’m listening, this is what Joan As Police Woman sounds like in 2018. Okay! Then we have Steed (for Jean Genet), a song that could have been titled by Laurie Anderson and which out St. Vincents St. Vincent. Okay again! Every song has something about it, something surprising, whether it's the way she uses her voice or a choice bit of instrumentation.
Undoubtedly, her desire is to strip things back and rein things in tight (listen out for the piano and keyboards used on The Silence, jutting in and out like angry fingers) means that Damned Devotion is not an album you can play once and get a grip on. She remains sultry, she remains a late night proposition; this is music geared for the come down, but for all that there is reinvigoration here. As with her debut, this is one we’ll be coming back to. And coming back to.
Listen to: Tell Me, Rely On, Talk About it Later