On the Record: Converge "Jane Live" (Deathwish Inc 2017)
Before I jump into why I love this version above the others, I want to briefly explain what is I love about this record. It’s actually easily summed up in one word: sincerity.
“Jane Done" is so sincere it’ll leave you with blisters. Not just in term of the lyrics, which are equal parts poetic flourish and raw intensity, but in terms of the instrumental performances and production of the record. Much like the iconic piece of fine art that adorns the cover of the album (I’ll come back to the new interpretation for this release in a bit), sonically this record feels like a painting built upon layers and textures, designed to perfectly compliment each other.
Admittedly, a painting created in a ferocious flurry which is totally reactionary, but a painting nonetheless.
And that’s what makes this record so sincere: this isn’t a record built on reflection or consideration, it’s a pure and visceral emotion reaction captured for prosperity. A perfect reflection of all of us at our most vulnerable turned into music.
This version of "Jane Doe" isn’t that. What it is a celebration of that sort of sincerity. This version of the record is just as intense, but it doesn’t bleed desperation like the studio version does. Nor should it. It would be incredibly disappointing to think that 15 years of creating music had left Converge in the same place.
The live versions of these tracks benefit from the boundless energy that continues to define Converge live and it also benefits from the evolution of the band as musicians and their own reflections on this material. Banon’s totally unique vocals ebb and flow in a way they weren’t allowed to on the studio version, adding an additional texture to the songs. Instrumentally, the rest of the band play with a confidence and sophistication that elevates these tracks, in particular, the epic closer that is the title track, to a different place. Possibly not a better place, but it's one that I find speaks to 28 year old me more than the original version that had such a potent effect on me in my early 20s does now.
Shout out to drummer Ben Kolller for being a total machine. Both then and now.
The stellar live mix on this version, provided by Converge guitar player and creative mastermind Kurt Ballou, removes the brittle, bright and cold sounds of the studio version and replaces them with something more muscular, something warmer, something which feels more alive. A few tracks here also benefit from Cave In alumni, and former Converge member, Stephen Brodsky lending additional vocals and guitar work. The complexity of some of these compositions needs those additional voicings to really translate properly.
As wonderful as the music on this record is, it’s the artwork that crowns this version of “Jane Doe” my favourite. The original artwork, a truly beautiful piece by the band’s vocalist and fine art graduate Jacob Banon, has been a favourite of mine from the moment I saw it. This record was a great source of solace to me around a few key life events, and the artwork evokes the memories of those events, and my reflections on them now.
To then see it reimagined with this incredible real life piece by Ashley Rose Couture is the real icing on the cake. Through this reimagining, the record evokes feelings in me which resonate with how my relationship with the music on this album has changed over the years I’ve been relentlessly listening to it.
There are another 3 reinterpretations of the album art, all of which are incredible, but I knew the second I saw it this was the one for me. Also, the colours on the vinyl itself are beautiful and the abstract nature of them matches up perfectly with the chaos in the music.
I’ve chosen this record to lead off this series because it’s the perfect example of what I love about buying albums on vinyl: the format forces you to engage with the music, the artwork and the lyrics in a way that reminds you exactly why you fell in love with it in the first place.
And remembering why we fall in love now and then is only ever a good thing.
Check out "Jane Live" below on Spotify if you like. Or don't. Or whatever.