The Long-Running Evolution of Joan of Arc Continues

August 11th, 2011

Joan of Arc – Mercury Lounge – August 10, 2011

(Photo: Dima Rogovik)

It’s impossible for some people to get past Joan of Arc’s origins as Cap’n Jazz, even though that early incarnation has had infinitely more posthumous recognition than when the band was together, probably due in part to the pre-Internet age when word of mouth had to spread mixtape to mixtape. Like with Slint, the mythology of Cap’n Jazz’s performances, scarcity of recordings and sheer ingenuity went on to inevitably influence a countless number of bands. But for frontman Tim Kinsella the breakup was the beginning of another project, Joan of Arc, which played for an enthusiastic, loyal crowd at Mercury Lounge last night.

Kinsella has remained just about the only consistent element in the band throughout its 16-year existence. The group delivers deliberately out-of-key, disparate record-skipping rhythms all in service of the distinctive vocals that continue to carry the same weight as in any of Kinsella’s many projects. Playing a scattering of songs from an extensive catalog, Joan of Arc staggeringly displayed idiosyncratic skill, dynamically shifting through time signatures and volume, looking to one another to hit changes in perfect sync. Not to mention a group this established has a sixth sense and the camaraderie is written on bassist Bobby Burg’s smiling face, as happy with the shattering breaks as we are.

If there’s one thing they’ve earned through this kind of longevity, it’s the right to completely reinvent their sound, to not be tied to any particular genre and still expect the fans to follow along. Kinsella and company have steadily developed this long-running evolution of Joan of Arc’s sound, and one does a disservice to think Cap’n Jazz marked the end of an era because Joan of Arc has continued to innovate and reinvent an epic thread of emo math rock. —Jason Dean