For those of you who don’t know (or own an Arctic Monkeys record) Motherwell’s Just Joan’s are indiepop royalty. Named after the Daily Record agony Aunt, they write tender, razor sharp songs about actual real life, often incorrectly called Miserablist when they are in fact Realist. They are lead by brother and sister Katie and David Pope (kind of a White Lightening Stripes) and their shows are funny and true and as a punter you feel part of the Just Joans family. People look to their music to get a feel of what’s going on in Scotland the same way people looked to Public Enemy to see what was happening in Detroit. It’s thanks to them a whole generation proudly drinks Buckfast from a bottle and knows what an ‘empty’ is. Their songs are delivered with tongues placed so steadfastly in cheek and with great fists full of salt, its easy to forget what talented songwriters they actually are. Indeed, in If You Don’t Pull and What Do We Do Now? they have two bona fide, 24ct anthems. Underestimate them at your peril.
It was somewhat jarring to realise that last time the postman delivered a Just Joans LP, it was realised on Wee Pop! records. To me. Wee Pop was a talisman, an icon, of the high tide mark, the very peak of indiepop when it seemed there was a new record, band or label to get excited about every week, life revolved around getting drunk with your pop heroes in tiny rooms above pubs and the summers were as endless as the possibilities. Nostalgia? Most certainly, but its hard not to hark back to a time before brexit and Morrissey turning out to be an absolute prick. As MJ Hibbett but it so succinctly recently, we really are ten years older and the band we loved really are dead. Do we actually need the Just Joans?
Well on evidence of this LP, the answer is a resounding yes. ‘Confessions’ is the record they have been aching to make. I despise the word ‘mature’ (it makes me think of moldy cellars) but it really does fit like a glove. Everything has gone up around ten notches since the last record. The singing is confident rather than bashful, the songwriting bristles with verve and ability. Take the chorus of Wee Guys (Bobby’s got a punctured lung) which absolutely soars and is so strong I had to check they hadn’t nicked it. See also the beauty of the strings on Dear Diary, I Died Again Today which shine the song up like a diamond. The lyrics are incredible too. When Nietzche Calls is an arty goth 101 but no less beautiful for it. The heart wrenching The Older I Get, The More I Don’t Know is the song M*rriss*y wishes he wrote. The swooning The One I Loathe The Least is gorgeous as it is wise (The record stores have closed their doors/the cinema shut down/and every bus is calling us/to pack up and leave town).
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of Just Joans will hopefully make the band realise just how talented they are. Just Joans have produced a proper grown up record that bares repeated listening and should find it’s place amongst the annals of Caledonian pop music. If Stuart Murdoch isn't jealous of this record, he really should be.