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Converge’s ‘Jane Doe’ turns 10

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It’s impossible to approach Converge’s Jane Doe without baggage. It was Terrorizer’s album of the year in 2001. Decibel inducted it into the Hall of Fame and later named it album of the decade. Sputnikmusic also named it best album of the decade.

The problem with accolades is that new listeners are told what to expect before they press play. They are expecting a life-changing experience, an epiphany. It’s not much different than what new listeners of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, Pet Sounds, or Led Zeppelin II experience. There’s no chance to approach them as a neutral listener. I discovered The Who’s Tommy on my own in a neighbor’s record rack. As a result, I feel more attached to it than these other canonical albums. Long before I knew it was about a messianic blind boy, I assumed it was about Christ. As an adult, I think it’s about both – and about Pete Townshend.

It’s best to view Jane Doe with fresh eyes and think back to when it was an album, not a milestone. Minus the praise and dissection, Jane Doe is about heartbreak, a relationship collapsing. Much great art is about lost love, whether it’s poetry, painting, or music. In metal, we’ve heard from a lovestruck Satan in “NIB” (I will give you those things you thought unreal / The sun, the moon, the stars all bear my seal). Metallica got teary-eyed with “Nothing Else Matters”. Type O Negative’s Peter Steele vented his rage with “Unsuccessfully Coping With The Natural Beauty Of Infidelity” (His tongue down your throat, his hands down your skirt, yeah I’m a man, baby, but it still hurts).

What makes Jane Doe different is that it’s not a simple good-bye, fond memory, or “fuck you”. It’s a panoramic view of a world collapsing. Nothing on this album that indicates that frontman Jacob Bannon will move past this relationship. The music – shifting between the nearly weeping guitar of “Thaw”, the schizophrenic twists of “Fault and Fracture”, and the pop introduction of “Distance And Meaning” – is the ultimate accompaniment to personal disintegration.

What’s most telling about Jane Doe is that while the female narrator bears her share of blame (“Homewrecker” and “The Broken Vow”), she’s not the only one responsible. Broken relationships involve two people. Jane Doe airs both sides of the story, so it resonates. It remains a poignant intersection of personal upheaval, passion, and art.

— Justin M. Norton

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“Fault and Fracture”

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“Distance and Meaning”

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Amazon (CD)
Amazon (MP3)
Equal Vision (CD, MP3, shirt)
Deathwish, Inc. (CD, 2LP, slipmat, etc.)

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