Review: Split EP by the Smittens and the Just Joans

smittens just joans EPDespite the strange post-60s obsession with musicians writing their own songs, the fact of the matter is that sometimes a song written by one artist is best interpreted by another.

In the case of the Smittens and the Just Joans, the evidence on this delightful EP strongly suggests that both bands might be best off abandoning recording their own songs and instead swapping them with the other.

The Smittens cover the Just Joans “What Do We Do Now,” and it’s terrific, my favorite song of the year so far. Twee vocals somewhat disguise a longing for a younger, less complicated time–a time that the desperate, melancholy lyrics give no quarter to:

What do we do now?
Now we’re ten years older,
The bands we loved are dead.

and

Do you still drink
Down ‘t the local?
Is the local
Still the local?

It’s masterful.

(I think anyone will enjoy it, but it’s particularly recommended to fans of the Vaselines.)

“What Do We Do Now” is followed up by the Smittens’ original “Summer Sunshine,” which is pleasant enough, but sounds like a wimpier version of the Pooh Sticks (yes, I didn’t think I could conceive of such a thing, either).

Next, the Just Joans cover the Smittens’ “Gin and Platonic.” A mournful female-sung verse moves into a mournful male-sung chorus that liberally references the Go-Go’s great “Vacation,” only with the pop sheen entirely stripped off.

The Just Joans win the originals competition with “I Hear Your the Man Now, John,” a spiteful, jealous little number that ups the happiness quotient not at all. A fine track, but, again, it doesn’t compare to the song they covered.

This split EP is a product of WeePOP! Records, which describes itself as:

a DIY indiepop record label based in London. We’re dedicated to limited run, lovingly hand crafted, assembled and numbered, wee tactile packets of lo-fi POP! A label for all us record geeks, who still love to hold something in our hands, something collectible, something special and tactile – something to awe over, to read and thumb through while listening to our newly purchased music! Powered by bedroom diy ethics, this is our love for music and bands and our love of being music fans, doing something for the bands of whom we adore their music. This is about us giving something back, and about having fun doing it.

They’re doing something right. This EP was quite the pleasant surprise. I look forward to hearing their other releases.

Nothing out there to embed, but you can hear both “What Do We Do Now” and “Gin and Platonic” at the WeePOP! Records MySpace Page. I strongly encourage you to do so.

Update: Something to embed now! (Although I think it fell victim to the Windows Moviemaker bug that has haunted me on occasion–the song is just over three minutes, not six minutes.)

The Smittens – “What Do We Do Now”

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