Joan of Arc
Jade Tree Records, 2000
Review by Kent Manthie
I just felt like I had to answer all these haters who’ve, in the fifteen years since Joan of Arc made a brilliant album, The Gap, have been maligning it, undermining its musical interactions as so much playing around in the studio, or talking about how Tim Kinsella is trying to “say something, but doesn’t quite know what…” (a remark that I’ve seen recycled in a couple other reviews) – well, those who write these snarky, oh-so-smart-guy reviews are just annoying. They are too dismissive. Obviously, they’re not Joan of Arc fans, that much is obvious. But just because they happen to be familiar with Tim Kinsella and company’s work doesn’t mean they’re necessarily qualified to be passing judgment on albums that they don’t seem to understand -or even appreciate. So, to help rectify that, I thought, especially since I didn’t write my first review of a JOA album until their Boo! Human album, in 2009, I thought I’d copy-and-paste exactly what I wrote on the Allmusic website’s “User Reviews” section for this particular album (The Gap). It may sound a little “reactionary”, but that’s only because I wanted to give an answer to all the high-minded, heavy-handed “critics” who have taken it upon themselves to be the arbiters of “hipness”. This, after all, is not a typical review, in the sense that I’m not going through it as I would if this were a new album and I was writing a review, like normal. Think of it more as an “open letter” to those “Brent diCrescenzo”-type JOA-haters who love to hate these guys.
I don’t care what anyone says about it, The Gap, in my opinion, is one of the most original, brilliant and lasting albums made since…well, in a LONG time. Sure, there is this love-it-or-hate-it thing that music reviewers have with Joan of Arc in general & The Gap, in particular. I mean. so what if they used up to 100 tracks while recording this or that each cut goes seamlessly into the next. This isn’t some fluff made to try to get played on the radio. Tim Kinsella never cared a bit if commercial radio stations anywhere played his music. He and his bandmates, whomever they happen to be at any given time, write music they enjoy and that, by extension, the Joan of Arc fanbase will enjoy as well. One thing that is so great about JOA is that, between their debut, A Portable Model Of… and their last major release, Life Like (or the one they did a year later, as a sort of soundtrack to Every Door a Window’s dance performance piece, Testimonium – Testimonium Songs was the 6-song album which came from that collaboration), Joan of Arc’s music has gone through so many different styles and sounds -due, no doubt, to the ever-changing line-ups of the band, with main man, Tim Kinsella, being the only constant. Along with The Gap, which has more memorable tunes than just “Me and America” (“As Black Pants Make Cat Hairs Appear”, “Knife Fights Every Night” and “Your Impersonation This Morning of Me Last Night”, to name the most obvious), is up there with So Much Staying Alive and Loneliness, Live in Chicago 1999, In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust as well as Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain up through 2012’s Steve Albini-recorded Life Like – all great albums; peerless, grand, obscure and guess what: we like it that way!! If you’d rather hear something more “accessible”, turn on your local “modern rock” radio station and, in between the commercials, you’ll hear what you’re “supposed to” like. Oh and I agree wholeheartedly with Tim Kinsella when he says that Joan of Arc is NOT an “emo” band. Quit trying to put Joan of Arc in a box. They’re not going to stay put!