Album Review: Joan As Police Woman – Joanthology

The wonderful Joan Wasser, a.k.a. Joan As Police Woman, has recently released a cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’. It is a radical and really cool reworking and sign that, this far down the road in her career, she is capable of surprising and throwing out these fascinating left-field angles! ‘Kiss’ is the second track to be taken from Joan As Police Woman’s new album, Joanthology. Out through Play It Again Sam, it is a collection of music that spans the last fifteen years of her output. I do not usually review collections and albums of this sort and, not only will this be a lot shorter a review than usual, but it is a rare opportunity to look at a popular artist and see how they have grown through the years. The remarkable, witty and always-fascinating Wasser put out her first Joan As Police Woman album back in 2006 – Real Life was a truly remarkable start. Wasser had released music before then but Real Life was this fully-formed and remarkable debut where Wasser’s gravel-rich and raw voice displayed intensity and vulnerability in equal measures. Critics raved because Real Life balances intensity and sublime beauty without sounding conflicted and unnatural. It was a truly bold and memorable start and one that got people hooked. I remember buying 2008’s To Survive when it came out and fell for terrific songs such as ‘To Be Loved’ and ‘To Be Lonely’. Maybe To Survive is a slightly cleaner, calmer and less ambitious work than her debut: within the space of two albums, Joan As Police Woman had progressed and was not beholden to a strict script.

2014’s The Classic and 2016’s and Let It Be You are remarkable works and, whilst they retain the core elements of her earliest works, there is a sign of the slightly-older Joan Wasser embracing something happier. The Classic is one of Joan As Police Woman’s most uplifting album and brings in 1960s and 1970s soul elements. If the slightly more joyful and brighter tone of 2014 was confusing to some critics, fans were keen to embrace it. It showed that you can never predict the chameleon-like Wasser. I wonder what the future holds for Joan As Police Woman and whether her next studio album takes her music in yet another direction! It is easy to love Joan As Police Woman’s back catalogue – and a retrospective is longoverdue. Maybe she has not gained the mainstream recognition she deserves but, when you listen to her body of work, there is so much quality there – why has she not been clasped to the public bosom more readily and passionately?! Joanthology is a banquet of Joan As Police Woman material that includes rarities, covers and selection of her material through the years. In conjunction with the album’s release, Joan As Police Woman is taking her Joanthology Tour around the world. She will hit up fifteen countries across forty-seven dates. There are no support acts and it is a unique chance to see this fantastic songwriter taking us through years of personal, timeless music – one hopes that new ears and eyes are struck by her brilliance and endless talent!

My favourite song of Joan As Police Woman’s is ‘To America’ (from To Survive) – but everyone will have their own standouts. With seven albums under her belt, we get a great span of time and moods. You only need listen to a selection of sounds to realise how varied and changeable Joan As Police Woman is – never standing still and always able to seduce. From live BBC sessions to her cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’, Joanthology is a treat for those who are fans of Joan As Police Woman…and for those who are new to her music and want to discover something moving and personal. You might find that an album with forty-three tracks is a bit tricky and long but, after only a few tracks, you are invested and hooked. It is wonderful celebrating the past and present of Joan As Police Woman but, after listening to Joanthology, it makes the mouth water regarding what comes next!

Joan As Police Woman’s Joanthology is available through Play It Again Sam. You can buy it here.