Review by Caitlin Webb
With stellar gigs performed all over the London-based DIY scene that they call home and extensive radio play on shows like BBC Music Introducing, it’s been a big year for Big Joanie. The feminist punk trio have certainly ended 2018 with a bang thanks to the acclaim that’s already been given to their debut album Sistahs.
Opening track ‘New Year’ gradually leads listeners into the album’s core mantras of self-empowerment in the face of loss. Its sparse sound, neither overtly optimistic nor miserable, has a very raw quality to it matching the vulnerability present in vocalist Stephanie Phillips’ tone. With relatable lyrics avoiding the theatrics, it’s a pick-yourself-up kind of track to really energise you into action; in short, it’s the perfect start to a record as passionate as this.
This is followed up by the absolute banger that is leadoff single ‘Fall Asleep’, where memorable fuzzed-up riffs are paired with a crooning vocal line described by Pitchfork as “a subtle earworm”. In addition, the brilliant synth touches and clapping accompaniment that you’ll be itching to join in with prove their commitment to creativity and offbeat sounds. Rather than being constrained by the typical elements of punk, Big Joanie breathe life into them.
The influences of Sistahs are clearly eclectic both musically and lyrically, widening the scope of this record into something truly special. For instance, tracks like ‘Used to be Friends’ blend more riot-grrrl inspired clapping in the background and twanging guitars with a real sense of growth and honesty. Its lyrics are distinctly mature, tackling the harder aspects of self-care like cutting off toxic friendships with grace aided by a raw delivery.
Meanwhile, short and sweet tracks like ‘Down Down’ and ‘Tell A Lie’ flirt with gritty basslines and an atmospheric mix of delicate vocals and spoken word in a display of old-school rock power. This powerful punk energy also runs wild on ‘Token’, which calls out the reduction of women of colour to stereotypes with true pathos. While fighting spirit is still shown through the mocking style of the verses imitating a so-called ally, lines like “don’t think it really matters anyway” have a defeated quality of feeling resigned to the position of the token.
By allowing their true feelings to be at the forefront of their songwriting, the band create tracks that truly empower the listener; not only to rebel but to check their own activism, to continue growing, and to do better.
Buy Sistahs direct from Big Joanie on Bandcamp.
The band launch their album tonight at New River Studios.