Calling Joan of Arc a "band" is something of a misnomer. They've always seemed like more of an art project than your standard rock group. Joan of Arc songs lurch in all different directions: some sound impossibly complex, others willfully tossed off. Tempos change frequently and without warning, guitars weave and wind around each other, and random noise seeps in through the cracks. Over it all, Kinsella moans, croons, and howls lyrics about linguistics, trash culture, and obscure French films. Is it any wonder he's half-jokingly said his band plays "music that no one likes"?
But people do like Joan of Arc, and there are a lot of worthwhile, adventurous ideas happening all over Lovelessness. "The Infinite Blessed Yes" is a beautifully drifting tune that almost feels poppy despite its odd time signature and impenetrable lyrics. She said you can't be so quietly gay / Cuz I already am and no one will ever let you keep anything they know you have. And "Perfect Need and Perfect Completion" has an almost straightforward (although still a bit oblique) narrative, revealing a movement away from the too-smart-for-his-own-good approach that has plagued other Kinsella releases. Perhaps most interesting is "Mr. Participation Billy," in which the singer details random acts of violence over a jaunty piano melody. Never has anyone sung "he got his pelvis smashed with a baseball bat" so sweetly.
Whether you find Kinsella's brand of experimental pop insufferably pretentious or delightfully challenging (I find it a bit of both), you have to give the man credit for his vision. Indie rockers are often content to run their sound into the ground, content to play things safe. But Joan of Arc seem to work without a net, allowing their impulses and instincts to guide them, no matter what the consequences. The ride may be a bumpy one, but that doesn't mean its not exhilarating.
February 10, 2003