Joan Wasser began her musical apprenticeship playing piano and violin at a very early age. But in her late teens she gave up on a promising career as a classically trained musician to become a teenage punk in various local bands. In the early ‘90s she joined an indie rock outfit called The Dambuilders where she played electric violin, but in 1996 she left the band to pursue some of her own interests. Later while performing and arranging music with musicians like Anthony Johnson and Rufus Wainwright, she began to seriously entertain ideas of starting her own band. And so, in the early to mid noughties, Joan as Police Woman was born, named in homage to the ‘70s US cop show, starring Angie Dickinson, fusing elements of soul, pop and indie rock with ground breaking results.
I first discovered Joan Wasser aka Joan As Police Woman’s album Real Life in 2007. It was a time when I had just started to explore new music that was different from what I was used to. It was brilliant in so many ways, as it threw caution in the wind. It was happy but sad, yet still engaging with moments of deep or serious thought. From it came a song called The Ride arguably a metaphor for the journey we would take with her in what was an exciting new phase in her life and career as a musician.
Since then, some ten years have passed and it seems Wasser, 48, has no intension of slowing down. On her sixth full-length album Damned Devotion (2018), she sets the bar higher than ever before. It stands as an incredible achievement set against synth beats and hip hop inspired sounds and Wasser’s trademark honesty. Don’t just take my word for it, The Guardian for instance says it “embraces the messy as well as the smooth, and the balance here is as perfect as Wasser’s ever likely to strike.”
Although I often feel alone in my admiration for Joan As Police Woman, I hope there is an audience out there who feels the same way as I do about Joan Wasser. To me, she is one of most important artists and collaborators of our time. That said, hopefully sometime in the near future I’d like to revisit Joan Wasser’s surprising career, but for now I’d like to leave you with the song that started it all for me The Ride, a wonderful melodic treat set against electronic piano and strings. Enjoy!
Totally with you on this. I love a lot of Joan As Policewoman, but “The Ride” stands out. It’s a perfect song in some ways, a kind of latter-day soul classic that stands with some of the greats.