Beer and Pavement

Why not Joan of Arc?

Posted in Live by SM on November 5, 2010

I saw Joan of Arc[1] play a club this week. Virtually no one was there.

What did they miss?

I only have one other JoA show from which to compare, but I know their extensive catalog well. Tim Kinsella put together a super tight four-piece that played an impeccable set of songs from various points in the band’s history. They rawked and played flawlessly. The guitar work in a JoA song is unmistakable and eternally compelling. It was just a great show.

So, why didn’t anyone go?

I will never understand why there aren’t as many people ape-shit over Joan of Arc as there are dolts like myself willing to fork over $35 to see Pavement do the ironic Eagles reunion deal[2]. And I love Pavement, but why doesn’t Joan of Arc get the same amount of love?

I guess whatever it is that JoA does, it’s difficult. I used to say that JoA songs were thirty or so seconds of brilliant pop structures and intellectually challenging lyrics with two minutes of noise and nonsense. It was worth it to patiently listen through automated birds chirping or chants or all kinds of percussion just to get to that diamond in the rough.

Then, they “broke up” and reunited as Owls. For my money, that Owls record is maybe the most complete Joan of Arc record ever. Then there were the years when they fucked around from album to album, challenging the listener every step of the way. There were the incredibly political releases in the Bush years all before what seems to be the band’s perpetual identity as a side-project for a guy who only does side-projects[3].

Whatever. Joan of Arc is not for the casual music listener. They are difficult. They demand your time and attention. I wish I had a beer analogy for you all, but there aren’t a lot of beers that challenge me the way a Joan of Arc record does. Sours used to do that[4]. Now, I just see them as a nice diversion from hops. The point is that there is really no way to explain Joan of Arc and maybe that’s the problem.

Either way, Joan of Arc is easily a top-10 band for me. No other band has as varied and as challenging a catalog as Tim Kinsella’s primary side-project does.

1Interesting that I wrote this short post on this topic on the heels of my last post on the Lost Abbey label. You know, burning women on the stake. Joan of Arc.
2Because, let’s face it, that’s what they did. I’m not criticizing the reunion. I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat. My point is that we are dummies for falling for this reunion and re-issue bull shit. I might be the guiltiest of all.
3This includes Cap’n Jazz, The Sky Corvair, Joan of Arc, Owls, Friend/Enemy, Everyoned, and Make Believe. None of these bands seem permanent and they exclude Kinsella’s solo work as well as various projects with which he’s been a part.
4Although, sours by Cantillon and Russian River challenge me a ton. However, I have very little access to these beers. So, maybe that’s why I don’t normally think of them as challenging in the way I do JoA material.

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