the difficulty beauty of letting go

27 September 2006, 7:49 pm

In 2001, Snap Pop! magazine received a copy of Joan of Arc’s EP “How Can Anything So Little Be Any More.” Knowing (or thinking I knew) only that some of the folks involved had been in one of the “good” emo bands (I had thought Braid, but the connection is to Cap’n Jazz) I volunteered to review it.

I remember listening to it exactly once. It was profoundly unpleasant. My recollection (unimpaired by any subsequent factual verification) is that it was tuneless and meandering, and that at least one song was repulsive equally for its sexism and heavy-handed irony. (A sort of “At least I’m being honest about just liking you for your breasts” number, if memory serves.) It did not rock. I remember thinking it seemed like a real “fuck you” note to anyone who bought it.

I never turned in a review of the EP, and although the magazine has long since folded, I’ve continued to feel guilty about that (and other reviews I never submitted for similar reasons). Maybe, I’ve told myself, I was just in a bad mood when I played it. Maybe it would reveal hidden depths and charms on further listening. Maybe I’d misinterpreted the song that rubbed me the wrong way.

Recently I put the disc up for trade on La La, and this morning I packed it up and shipped it off. As I was doing so I felt misapprehension and misgivings. I should have given it one more chance!

But as soon as I dropped it in the mailbox, I felt a weight lifted from me. Never again would Joan of Arc hiss “listen to me!” in the dead of the night. Maybe it is brilliant, but difficult. I have plenty of other brilliant but difficult records I already know I like. If I feel the urge to listen to a record I suspect I’ll hate, people keep sending me plenty of those, too.

One of my favorite things about La La (like eMusic in it’s all-you-can-eat days) is that I don’t even feel very guilty about ditching a disc I think stinks. If I pay La La’s going rate to hear a disc I don’t care for, it saves me the $12 I could’ve spent otherwise, and leaves me with an asset I can trade for something I might like better. That’s a value proposition I’m content with.


I try not to go too ga-ga over music at first listen, because sometimes songs that grab me hardest immejately are those that I tire of quickest. But after one spin through Be Your Own Pet’s self-titled disc I’m perilously close to becoming a fan, major label/faux indie or no. Lotsa nasty scratchy guitars and frenetic performances (which I expected) but more and better hooks and actual singing than I bargained on.

One comment on “the difficulty beauty of letting go”

  1. Ezra

    One of the paradoxes of living now, which is, of course, the future, is that the world is both starving for creativity and beauty, and the world is also overflowing with more creativity and beauty than you can reasonably appreciate in one mortal lifetime.

    Moral: you can’t feel guilty that you didn’t like something that might have been great (but it sounds like it was kind of awful, IMO), no more than you can feel guilty that there is something out there that is great but that you haven’t heard yet.

    PS: thanks for posting! It’s been a Summervillain drought of late.


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