JOANovARC have their eponymous new album "JOANovARC" released on Friday 31st May 2019 and this is my first encounter with the band and their music; it is however one of mixed emotions. One half of me wants to put this band into my “make sure you see them live” diary if they do a tour of Scotland and the other half of me is asking myself if they have a distinctive enough musical identity to stand out identifiably on radio from a wall of similar sounding music from similar sounding bands. The answer to that last comment I am not sure of to be honest, but the 11 tracks on this album often interest me more from a songwriting point of view than a playing one. There is nothing wrong with this to me though, and I mean it with no disrespect to the band, just think of all the great songs written by Jim Steinman for other artists.
JOANovARC are Samantha Walker, Shelley Walker, Deborah Wildish and Laura Ozholl, and there are simply not enough women only bands out there at any point in music history, and for still far too many reasons the music industry all too often ignores the ones that come along or treat them as some sort of marketing curiosity without ever committing the resources needed to help them break through gender barriers. I hope this does not happen to JOANovARC as underneath the often hard and fast paced music of their songs there are some well-crafted songs and lyrics. In many ways, this band often reminds me of one of my favourite bands of my youth –“The Runaways” - and many of the tracks on this album have that late 1970s/early 1980s New-Wave edge to their feel, and that energy is something that I hope the band never lose.
Good songwriters should never be afraid to deal with difficult subjects and, here, songs like “Waiting For”, “Down By The River”, “People Coming Up” and “Try it On” deal with subjects as hard hitting as drug addiction, broken relationships and a predatory opportunist around a rocky relationship.
There are some very good songs here with a tightness to the band's music that only playing together for many years brings (the band were formed in 2004) and “When We Were Young” displays an obvious maturity in it's writing. For some reason I am always drawn to the slower paced songs and JOANovARC can switch to these from fast “floor fillers” with ease.
I hope this band gets the openings that they need to move onto the next levels of the musical ladder that is the music industry (as they have more than paid their dues to everyone over the years) but, whatever happens, I suspect that it will often be the band breaking down those doors and opening up the opportunities for themselves, and they have the ability to do exactly that if they want to.
Listening to JOANovARC for the first time, I am left with wondering just what this band could do as song-writers for other bands too.
Review by Tom King