“I’ve been on the ride before, it never stops at all,”sang Joan Wasser on her 2006 debut LP Real Life,and it’s a sentiment that rings true on new album The Classic. Wasser has updated her sonic template for each Joan As Police Woman record and The Classic,her fourth LP,is no different – gleefully grabbing from Motown and ’70s soul music, it’s the New York songwriter’s most buoyant set of songs thus far.
“That’s just something that has been a constant in my life,” Wasser says. “If something’s done, move on to the next thing. There’s always stuff to do, more music to be created, more people to collaborate with. Once it’s done, ‘Bye – see you later.’ I think certain ex-boyfriends of mine are rather horrified at that.”
The record’s lead single ‘Holy City’ is an uplifting Motown number, which gains additional firepower from Reggie Watts’ scat-singing outro. Watts shows up again on the doo-wopping title track, while elsewhere The Classic showcases instrumental improvisation and horns aplenty. Wasser has no trouble introducing new facets of her personality with each release, but it isn’t a closely controlled progression.
“I’d love to say that I had a grand plan, but guess what? That wouldn’t be true,” she says. “I just keep going and I write. Clearly certain influences or feelings are revealed on each record, because of the place I’m in – that’s for sure – but I don’t plot it out.”
There are some sustaining characteristics that unite all of the Joan As Police Woman records; namely, Wasser’s timeless vocal style, lyrics that jump from sassy to sincere, and the authentic invocation of soul music. Yet Wasser isn’t inclined to revisit a formula that’s previously served her well.
“When I made [Real Life] I was very obsessed with remaking I’m Still In Love With You by Al Green. I wanted the songs to be very concise and simple and clean. That record sounds quite polished… I really like that sound, but I did it already. Soul music and Motown, that’s the music that’s been near and dear to my heart, so I think that just came out naturally on some of these [new] songs.”
In addition to being livelier, The Classic features the longest compositions in Wasser’s catalogue. A chief example of this is ‘Good Together’ – a darkened seven-minute journey through emotions and textures that culminates in a guitar-screeching jam.
“In the past, when the lyrical content was done, shortly after I would fade it out,” Wasser says. “This time I was like, ‘I would want to hear that myself, the band keep playing, so why am I not giving my listeners credit enough to want to hear that stuff?’ It did feel like a chance I was taking, to allow the songs to really go, travel and not stop for a while. People have given me really good feedback about that, so I feel glad that I took that chance.”
Speaking of taking chances, naming an album The Classic is a rather bold move. The term alludes to highbrow ideals, time-acknowledged quality and an artist’s crowning achievement. So how should it be interpreted in regards to Wasser’s new record?
“I just think that [it’s] funny. I know that some people do; probably some people don’t, but that’s OK. There’s a song on the record called ‘The Classic’ and it’s about an ultimate lover. I say, ‘You’re the archetype, you’re the classic’; it’s very bombastic and grandiose and kind of over the top. And I feel like there’s elements of that on this record.”
The Classic out now through [PIAS]