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Joan of Arc 

So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness

Wednesday, Mar 5 2003
The Chicago smarty-pants in Joan of Arc have their roots in the spastic Cap'n Jazz, a short-lived punk act that also gave birth to the "new emo" juggernaut the Promise Ring. Like many bands tagged with the "post-rock" term, Joan of Arc has spent its career exploring the outer reaches of rock, adding touches of jazz, electronics, and Americana to a core foundation of guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. On JOA's fifth album, So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness, the quintet (augmented by Chicago session players like Tortoise cornetist Rob Mazurek) makes quietly meandering music for late-night study sessions, with leader Tim Kinsella muttering cryptic prose poems over strange arrangements for sidewinding guitars, plunking piano, and gleaming pedal steel.

At its best, Joan of Arc plays repetition off rupture, as on "The Infinite Blessed Yes," in which it borrows a moody groove from the Sea and Cake and riles it up with twittery trumpets. Elsewhere, though, it seems the crew is auditing a course in deconstructed jam bands, undoing perfectly functional rock structures and tangling them in extended, ill-fitting improvisations.

Gastr del Sol -- Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs' highly theorized fusion of experimental poetics, rock 'n' roll, and avant-garde composition -- hangs heavily over Joan of Arc's efforts. But the success of that group obscured the fact that such aggressive aims really are rocket science. Too often on So Much Staying, Kinsella and his classmates sound like frazzled doctoral students, patching together moments of brilliance with half-baked doodles.

About The Author

Philip Sherburne


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