Glasgow’s The Just Joans have long been cult heroes amongst connoisseurs of a particular brand of endearingly ramshackle DIY Scottish indie-pop. Initially an outlet for the main songwriting duo of siblings Katie and David Pope, they returned in 2017 after a five year absence as a bigger, better (and yes, more polished) sextet with the wonderful You Might Be Smiling Now…, their bittersweet and self-deprecating odes to small town life and teenage nostalgia more welcome than ever. Thankfully not waiting another five years, they’re now back with The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans, that deliciously arch title showing their trademark wit and knowing melodrama is still intact.
It’s hard to think of another contemporary Scottish band that can have a listener laughing out loud so often, the winning colloquialisms and distinctly Glaswegian turns of phrase proving a luminous tonic from the vague banalities of most pop music around today. The rolling honky-tonk piano and choppy guitars of Who Does Susan Think She Is? sees Katie Pope call out a former childhood friend for her new affectations since going to Art School: “She says she might move to London / Now she claims she’s a vegan / We both know you haven’t got a clue about foreign films; your favourite show is still Friends”.
This kind of biting snark is found throughout the album but as the musical accompaniment is an endlessly sweet confection of Stuart Murdoch-esque acoustic strums and fuller-sounding synth-led numbers, the caustic shade-throwing always feels affectionate rather than bitter. In fact, beneath the blackly comic title, album highlight Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got a Punctured Lung) feels like a genuine lament for the senseless gang violence that still blights the West of Scotland, even as it opens with lines like “Wee guys go looking for trouble / Wee guys don’t even have stubble”. This blend of the heartfelt and the comically morose sees The Just Joans indulge in a fine tradition of tuneful Scottish miserabilism that is distinctly our own, and might be doing it better than anyone else around at the minute.