Of course, she has form for this before. 2009’s Covers record saw Joan Wasser, aka Joan as Police Woman interpret some of her favourite songs from artists as diverse as Hendrix, Public Enemy, Bowie, Sonic Youth and T.I.. With the release of Cover Two, out this Friday (May 1st via PIAS) her selections remain as diverse, with Joan taking songs by the likes of Blur, Prince, Talk Talk and, perhaps more left field, from the ‘Grease’ soundtrack.
The important thing, as with every cover song, is that its an interpretation of someone elses work, not just a copy of it. Here’s where Wasser comes into her own. Sometimes she toys with feel or arrangement or tempo, sometimes not, but as we should have come to know with someone as (currently at least) prolific and creative as Joan that she always makes something her own. Added to that is that a voice as expressive, emotive and downright beautiful as hers always brings something to a song, whatever we might think of it.
The record’s opener, her version of Prince’s Kiss is a case in point. While it might not be the most surprising cover on the album – fans who saw last years Joanthology will attest to that, Joan strips it of its bubbling funk, slowing it down and reigning it in, replacing it with this rather arid, almost minimal backing, and a soul and sadness in her voice that suggests looking in from afar, rather than flirting right in front of the subject. But it works in a surprising, fascinating, brilliant way.
Elsewhere, there are other moments that really catch the breath – her vocal in The Strokes ‘Under Control’ is so delicate an intimate it almost speaks to you directly, and she drags every ounce of emotion out of Neil Young’s ‘On the Beach’ which is thrilling. Better still though is her duet with Justin Hicks on Talk Talk’s ‘Life What You Make It’ smothered in echoey synths, and shards of electronic sounds albeit not falling too far from the original tree, and the stand out piano led version of Out of Time by Blur, her voice warm, earthy and engrossing.
Even in the more seemingly random choices – such as the Grease cover (There are worse things I could do) and a version of Michael McDonald of Keep Forgetting she breathes new life into, or maybe different life into. It’s not a perfect album, one or two of the songs (at most) just miss the target, not by much mind, but its an album that draws you in and allows you to luxuriate in Joan Wassers voice and arrangements. Luxuriate away.