No Love, No Hope: Converge's Jane Doe Turns 10
This next week is full of big musical anniversaries. Saturday marks 20 years since the release of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" single, Genesis' ABACABturns 30, and System Of a Down's Toxicityand Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft" all hit the decade mark. And one of the most significant cultural moments of the past 100 years, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will be honored on Sunday.
In the mix of all these landmarks is the September 4, 2001 release of Converge's Jane Doe, an album that would do more for the Salem, Massachusetts metalcore and the hard music world than anyone would imagine in 2001, spawning untold amounts of copycat bands and birthing a whole scene in its wake.
Add to that the hopeless and strife-ridden lyrical content that vocalist Jacob Bannon was setting forth on Jane Doe, and you have the perfect soundtrack for a country smoldering under a pile of twisted metal and ashes, unsure of the next step, but knowing for sure it would involve even more bloodshed.
The album is about a horrendous breakup (seriously, what an awful woman), but the words and songs could just as easily be about our post-9/11 society. Starting off with "Concubine" and not ending for 45 minutes, it was a hellride of melodic metal, a "discordant landmark" that would inform most hardcore for the next decade. Check out the riffs, the sludge, the ambient moods.
Plus, most people - well, the uncool ones - hadn't heard someone like Bannon wail and scream like that, and certainly not in such an astonishingly well-built band like Converge.
Look at every kiddie fashion-metal band playing at Warehouse Live or the House Of Blues, with those long-ass names and displace anger. It was born ten years ago, when most of those kids were learning their multiplication tables.
The other great, modern influential punk album from that era, Refused's The Shape Of Punk To Come, came three years earlier 1998, and today that LP and Jane Doe comprise just two parts of the modern musical landscape.
The band's subsequent albums haven't quite gotten the mad love they all deserve, but to Rocks Off they are all gems, especially 2004's Doe follow-up, You Fail Me. The opening four songs alone...
Jane Doe works as a 45-minute think-piece, and not just as a collection of great songs to "rage" to. With it plugged into your head via your headphones, it's gruff, industrial, almost immovable, but it also manages to swing. It's concrete.
No wonder you see so many people with that album cover tattooed on their bodies. Since 2001, that female figure on the sleeve, designed by Bannon, has been almost as ubiquitous as the Misfits' own Crimson Ghost. At least wearing the Jane Doe girl, you aren't saddled with that guilt of supporting a post-Danzig Misfits tribute band.
This week, be sure to check it out for the first time, or at least revisit it. It's well worth the hearing damage and the probable emotional toll.
Like Pitchfork put it in 2002, "At least anonymity won't curse Converge for long with an album like this so full of intelligence, skill and intensity that it's simply masterful. Otherwise, I don't know what to call it. That's probably a good thing."
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