Joan of Arc
He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands
Joyful Noise Records, 2017
Review by Kent Manthie
After one of the most depressing and awful years in modern memory (2016), 2017 is shaping up to be a better one (so far, anyway). The one good thing that has happened so far this year is the new album from Joan of Arc, He’s Got the Whole This Land is Your Land in His Hands, their first since 2013’s Testimonium Songs, which was a soundtrack of sorts to the dance troupe, Every Door a Window and their dance piece, Testimonium, which was a re-creation, of sorts, of the trial of some labor leaders in the late 19th century. That album, basically an EP, with just six songs on it, came on the heels of 2012’s wonderful Life Like, on which the worked again with legendary Chicagoan Steve Albini.
He’s Got… is not as stripped down as their last two were. This time they’ve brought Jeremy Boyle back, and Melina Ausikaitis too. The album starts out with a great opener: “Smooshed That Cocoon”, something that could only come from the wonderfully creative mind of Tim Kinsella. By the time we get to the middle part of the album, it goes into a kind of laid back, but “busy” mosaic of sonic gravitas. “Never Wintersbone You” talks about Phil Collins and his first solo hit, “In the Air Tonight”, from his first solo LP, Face Value, which was written and recorded around the time he was going through a particularly nasty divorce, which, ironically, provided some of the impetus of Face Value. Anyway, it’s hard to really know what they’re singing about unless one knows the context. Also, the last two cuts on the album, “F is For Fake” and “Ta-ta Terrordome” are great and show that JOA still have ‘it’.
As soon as I read that Joan of Arc had a new album out, I immediately went to work and, once I had it, I listened to it all the way through, of course, and was just blown away by its brave, forward-looking, fearless intensity. Every song really shines on this and I can’t think of anything I’d change about it. Oh, I suppose, if I were, say, Robert Christgau, I’d look and look until I found something negative about it that I could use to sound oh-so above it all, etc. but I’m not Christgau. I don’t live in that same world. Don’t wait around for some single to show up, get yourself the whole album. It’s a beautiful piece of music as a whole; it all fits together nicely. -KM.