Discussing the newish (yeah, we missed it – sorry) album from Glasgow’s Just Joans, singer-songwriter David Pope says “You Might Be Smiling Now… could be considered a loose concept album. The songs detail the confusion in my teenage years, the horror of my twenties and the terror of my encroaching middle age. It’s somewhat self-indulgent, but I hope that these wee stories about small town boredom, drunken romance and misty-eyed nostalgia resonate with the other overgrown teenagers out there in their mid-thirties.” It pretty much sums the themes of the record up, as the sextet (much removed from their early shambling two piece) poke out scruffy, but likable post-c86 indie pop of some quality.
As the album progresses from the fuzzy charm of opener O Caledonia, so we meet characters in Popes life – his neice kicks things off as the band yearn for that age of innocence, while school friends, failed relationships and David’s fellow bandmember Katie all feature, the latter taking the lead on the woozy torchsong that is Steal the Keys (1996 tears). Johnny, Have you come lately gently mocks the schools chosen ones, wondering whats become of them (answer: not much, really – more than likely anyway) over this spidery faux-funk accompanyment, while the twisted love song that is You make me physically sick (Let’s Start having children) trips and bounces over a collection of completely retro electro sounds.
There’s a little taste of the Motown/Northern Soul with I only smoke when I drink and the melancholy of No Longer Young Enough, albeit dragged through Glasgow (an Orange Juice/Teenage Fanclub Glasgow as well) strapped by beard-trimmings to a Rickenbacker. In contrast, Someone else that you like more than me is not far removed from John Shuttleworth keyboard work, but somehow, some way, The Just Joans get away with it, and instead it seems drenched in childlike innocence.
Read in public places is also synth heavy, but this time the childlike comes in the form of the la-de-da chorus, While Big Blue Moon could have been written for some kind of smouldering scene in Gregory’s Girl, if a smouldering scene in Gregory’s Girl had indeed existed, all echoey production and tumbling synths. If there’s one thing I can’t resist its hand-claps, you can NEVER have too many handclaps in music, and so the whole of the chiming indie pop of Biblically speaking is lit up with smiles, and the tangible heartbreak and hope contained within Sleeperbloke beings things to a fitting close.
There are so many things that shouldn’t work on You Might Be Smiling Now… the innocence never gets twee, the memories and stories never become self absorbed and the simplicity of some of the music works because it’s wrapped up in great tunes. For a band named after an agony Aunt column, You Might Be Smiling Now… manages to dredge up old memories, share them, and essentially by making sad, happy, funny, poignant songs, they make you feel better about your own life. That’s some decent advice I would say
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