Joan as Police Woman

Real Life | Cheap Lullaby
By RENÉ SPENCER SALLER  |  July 2, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
Ex-Bostonian Joan Wasser, the former violinist for ’90s angst-mongers the Dambuilders, spent more than a decade carrying other musicians’ trains — touring with Rufus Wainwright and Joseph Arthur, doing session work for Lou Reed and Nick Cave, and playing in Antony and the Johnsons. But she’s found her own voice, and the bridesmaid is now a bride. As the only full-time member of Joan As Police Woman, Wasser writes all the songs, plays guitar, violin, and keyboards, and sings like someone who should’ve been hogging the spotlight all along. Real Life, JAPW’s first full-length, is a delightfully unstable amalgam of art rock, cabaret, soul, and jazz, a fitting vehicle for Wasser’s quicksilver contralto and considerable musical chops. Dusky piano ballads (the title track) highlight the rueful intimacy of her delivery; busier, more aggressive numbers (“Christobel,” “Eternal Flame”) distinguish her from peers like Feist and Keren Ann. Wasser’s experimentalist tendencies can lead her astray — “I Defy,” an overwrought duet with the ubiquitous Antony, maxes out on vocal overdubs, nightmarish piano glissandos, and queasy horn fills. But when she exercises a bit of restraint, as on the torchy stunner “Anyone” and “We Don’t Own It,” a heartbreaking elegy for Elliott Smith, the results are thrilling.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Lou Reed,  More more >
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