It feels like we’ve been waiting for ‘Sistahs’ forever and it’s finally here. Big Joanie are really making waves at the moment, picking up serious steam. Recent support slots for no less than Parquet Courts and being signed up to Thurston Moore’s new Daydream Library imprint (this being the inaugural release) suggest they are onto a winner. For the uninitiated, Big Joanie are a three piece punk/soul band from London, and an ever growing presence in the burgeoning DIY punk scene.
Theirs is an approach very rarely tapped (or done well) which immediately makes them an intriguing proposition.
Big Joanie cite their influences as The Ronettes, Nirvana, The Breeders and The Jesus and Mary Chain, which is a fairly accurate description of their sound. Stephanie Phillips’ soulful voice and grungey guitar playing is backed up by Estella Adeyeri’s propulsive basslines (also of Witching Waves) and Chardine Taylor-Stone’s metronomic drumming.
So, how is their debut full length? We’ll break it down for you:Opener New Year immediately brings to mind Interpol’s “Obstacle 1”, sharing a similar moody atmosphere. The intro guitar riff is similar, is effected with a slight delay, but the song takes off into another direction, the drums shifting the momentum of the song, the bass driving a steady course. A strong opening track.
Fall Asleep showcases the Nirvana influence, the grungey guitar riff, the drawled “Yeah yeah yeah”s, but they throw a disco beat curveball and, later, distorted synths into the mix as well as overlapping vocal lines. It’s a cracker of a song.Used To Be Friends laments a broken down friendship, reminiscing then conceding that it hasn’t yet healed. Backed by indie pop hand claps and an almost Meat Puppets-esque guitar line in the verses, there is great simplicity in the song writing that keeps it catchy.
Eyes may be our favourite track here. The frenetic drum beat, repeated recorder lines, the guitar that almost works in call and response with itself. There is a beautiful, soulful break down around half way through that slowly builds with fuzzed out guitars before burning out.Way Out is another highlight here, the phased guitar parts, the “way out” chanted vocals.
There is a lot of texture in this song, which is allowed to breathe by the simple, minimal drum beat throughout.
Down Down really showcases the Jesus and Mary Chain influence – the overall mood and Bobby Gillespie-style drumming.Tell A Lie has great rhythmic appeal. The drums start simple then become busier, yet maintain the same beat. The guitar and bass ping back and forth. It brings to mind contemporaries Halo Halo and Trash Kit.
Token deals with being black in a largely white community, not taking drugs in a community where this is common, and at the same time accepting it. “Don’t think it really matters anyway”, the frequent reply. It’s You features more great rhythmic shifts. How Could You Love Me is like a classic rock n roll song – kind of like Blue album era Weezer, with more soul. Another highlight on the record.
Cut Your Hair (not a Pavement cover) closes ‘Sistahs’. The slowest building track on the album. There is a lot of space here. Drawn out keyboard notes, sparse drums and a simple, slinky guitar line. The subtlety with which new sounds are introduced is gorgeous. This album is a triumph.
You may enjoy this if you like: Shopping, Halo Halo, Jesus and Mary Chain, Nirvana