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Joan Of Arc > Alternative
28/11/2018 - 28/11/2018 - Hamburg - Goldener Salon (Hafenklang)
Performing Artists:

Joan Of Arc
Over their 20-odd year discography, Joan of Arc’s astute, endlessly
probing musical experimentation— steadfastly resistant to dogma and
genre at every turn—has been chorused by a barrage of voices, mostly
from the singular larynx of mainstay Tim Kinsella, who remains endlessly
obsessed with (and infuriated by) Orwellian language and it’s dominion
over American life. Richard Brautigan, Mark Twain, Elizabeth Taylor, and
Assata Shakur might visit his lyrics, but it’s the band itself that
contains multitudes. Throughout Joan of Arc, Kinsella and his bandmates
have hewn together a true artistic democracy—some two dozen members over
the years—to confront the darkening political realities and
interpersonal mysteries of our time. Like their namesake—a donee of
revelation who became a fierce holy warrior, only to be discarded by a
king and burned at the stake as a heretic—Joan of Arc has inspired their
share of true believers and dismayed legions of skeptics.

Ever since Joan of Arc's most recent lineup— Kinsella, Theo Katsaounis,
Melina Ausikaitis, Bobby Burg, and Jeremy Boyle— congealed and began
playing shows locally in 2015, going on to record and release their most
recent album ‘He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands’,
via Joyful Noise on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, fans have
witnessed an even more radical democracy at work. ‘Your War (I’m One Of
You): 20 Years of Joan of Arc’, a full-length documentary from Vice’s
Noisey, was an initial window into the band’s generous collaborative
spirit and the far- flung, improvised creation of that new LP. Live, old
jams and new tracks have often melted and mutated, members jumping from
instrument to instrument in between or in the middle of songs, all
stasis discarded. And now, a series of nearly a cappella performances
from Kinsella’s fellow vocalist Melina Ausikaitis, debuted live by Joan
of Arc over the last several years, has become the backbone of their new
LP, ‘1984’.

Remarkably, so much of the cluttered sound of earlier Joan of Arc LPs
has largely fallen away on ’1984’, as has Kinsella’s voice. At first
it’s genuinely shocking. But the songs here are a revelation, as
profound and plainspoken as parables. Thoroughly of the band’s lineage,
Ausikaitis’ lyrics are equally measured with wit, despair and stubborn
perseverance. There is awkward sex at Grandma’s house. There are kids in
the snow wearing cop sunglasses and the crumbling psychic defenses of
childhood memories. There are A-frame houses and white horses. There are
trucks losing their brakes on the hill at the end of the street. There
are heaps of thoroughly useful self-help advice ("stop chicken-shittin’
all over your life” has become a personal mantra.). Like the album’s
striking hand drawn cover art, the music inside is often spare. Anthemic
highs ring from elegiac lows and back again. At times, Ausikaitis sings
in an earnestly tangy and lovely flat twang redolent of the midwest,
before screwing her voice up into a fearsome roar. Sometimes her voice
is electronically distorted, like bells in the sky, into ringing
eternity. On "Vermont Girl”, I’m not entirely sure she isn’t
purposefully doing an impression of her bandmate just for the hell of
it, and it cracks me up every time I hear it.

Whenever I’ve decided I have this band pegged, they’ve challenged and
rewarded me: with a score for a silent film, in a half-hour minimalist
cover of the Beatles’ "Helter Skelter” pounding through an art museum,
by a performative collaboration with a theatre group, and one
particularly memorable Empty Bottle show where they uncorked volleys of
catastrophic EDM at a crowd that seemed to melt into the walls. More
often than not, it seems like the less I’ve expected from them going to
a show or tucking into a new album, the more I’ve received. The more
I’ve seen others scratch their heads at this band’s steady defiance of
expectations, the more Joan of Arc has made me see their artistic
wisdom. On ’1984’, they’ve done it again, and I suspect they’ll continue
to soundtrack my life beyond these past two confounding decades. These
days there are too few bands that make me feel less alone.

You tried to be a person with no problems, but there is still time for
you to get on Joan of Arc’s one way train and ride with me to their pyre
of righteous, pure democracy. Put on your headphones and fire up ‘1984’
and remember yourself as a child, when your only tattoo was the memory
of the first time you saw your mother cry written deep upon your heart.
Listen: there’s no need to close your personal hole. It’s a place where
only you can go. You got your head shaved cuz of the lice. Your collared
shirts have the bottoms tucked inside. All of your life you’ve been
eating shit, but look at us now. We’re real punk kids.

by JR Nelson


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