Big Joanie: Sistahs review – fearlessly discordant punk debut

(Ecstatic Peace Library)

Adding a recorder solo to any song is a bold move outside Renaissance faire circles. That is precisely what happens halfway through Big Joanie’s debut full album, and it’s indicative of the London punk trio’s fearless approach to discordance: the wind instrument pierces the relentless rumble of Eyes, which suddenly lurches into a sour waltz. Big Joanie were born at DIY Space for London’s First Timers festival, in which new bands form, write and perform over a weekend. They built a reputation by supporting bands including Parquet Courts and Downtown Boys and making a stand for the recognition of black punks in British music’s past and present.

Their sound won them a fan in noted discordance-monger Thurston Moore, who releases Sistahs on his label The Daydream Library. They create a spiny, tunnelling sensation on Fall Asleep from monotonous guitar twang and prickling synths; singer-guitarist Stephanie Phillips contrasts her impish high-life playing on Tell a Lie with vocal aloofness; and the sludgy guitar chunter driving Way Out refuses to resolve. Phillips, bassist Estella Adeyeri and drummer Chardine Taylor Stone often sing in unison, sounding intimidating on Used to Be Friends but vulnerable on the lovely How Could You Love Me, which mainlines classic girl-group dejection. The effect is compellingly unsettling, though sometimes unsatisfying, as their confident, complex textures hew to similar structures across Sistahs’ 11 songs. More of them could do with the indomitable payoff of It’s You, which seems to exorcise the feeble lover they indict in the verses.

• This review originally referred to a previous line-up of the band. This has been amended.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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