Monday, June 05, 2006

is understanding not understanding?

In 1995 A.D. a relatively unknown band with a small following in the Chicago area based on several 7" records disbanded. They had just one full-length under their belt (conveniently titled Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We've Slipped On, And Egg Shells We've Tippy Toed Over. Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards In The Spokes, Automatic Biographies), and they were known as Cap'n Jazz. It was from their ashes that (for all intended purposes) frontman Tim Kinsella founded a new group based on his newer, more abstract writing style and budding guitar abilities alongside keyboardist Jeremy Boyle. The two joined forces with Cap'n Jazz alumnist Sam Zurick and roadie Erik Bocek, and with the final addition of Tim's brother Mike, a new band was born: Red Blue Yellow. Something wasn't right and the material and band name were scrapped. A few months later, Chicago was introduced to...
JOAN OF ARC (Tuesday Spotlight for 06/06/06)
Joan of Arc (with Mike as an occasional member) released two 7"s, one of which elaborately decorated with a hand-made wooden frame, before Jade Tree released their proper debut A Portable Model Of in 1997. The same year, Jade Tree would re-release almost every Cap'n Jazz song as Analphabetapolothology, a 2 CD collection that would bring the defunct band to many more ears. Joan of Arc's debut would introduce the world to an austere acoustic sound slightly adorned with electronic embellishments. Complete with appearances by Mike Kinsella (Cap'n Jazz, The One Up Downstairs, American Football, Owls, Owen), Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Owls, Ambulette) and Davey vonBohlen (Cap'n Jazz, The Promise Ring, Maritime), A Portable Model Of was disconnected from the standard music scene but relatively coherent.
How Memory Works, the follow-up, was considered more consistent with very strong songs, while it also introduced more off-beat instrumentation and disjointed sounds and samples. While Tim's obliquitous lyrics were still virtually impenetrable on a personally relatable level, some ideas and ideals were hard to misconstrue, as with the Fiona Apple-picking and startlingly rock-driven "This Life Cumulative." The band, now with Mike as a full-timer, started to come into it's own with their use of the studio as an instrument.
The third release, despite it's title (Live In Chicago, 1999) was not a live album. The Cap'n Jazz retrospective was getting a surprising (but well-deserved) amount of attention, Mike Kinsella and Erik Bocek left the group, and the term "emo" was being tossed around with fingers pointed at Tim for starting a movement. Joan of Arc (now Tim Kinsella, Jeremy Boyle and Todd Mattei) was a Chicago band. It's three members lived and recorded there in 1999 and an album title was born. The third effort was a very serious response to the emo-accusations and attention the group was getting. Studio trickery was still on the rise and the movements were slower and more capacious. The album art contained artsy photographs with cardboard cutout scenery, a cast of characters based on Jean-Luc Godard's Le Weekends, hoagies and a lot of blood. Tim was content leading the band further into abstruseness.
Joan of Arc absolutely embraced their obscure design while spending an intense nine months in the studio recording The Gap. Mike was back on board for the fourth album along with newbie Matt Clark to create the most studio-heavy JoA album to date. The Gap was a more flowing singular epic, occasionally reaching 100 tracks of sounds, satirizing Pink Floyd's The Wall, and clattering in the most ambient way Joan of Arc would ever do. Tim balanced the feat by releasing an EP of outtakes played primarily by solo. The process drained them. Jade Tree wasn't thrilled. Critics were mad. Joan of Arc broke up.
Owls (with the infamous Victor Villareal)
came and went. Tim began work on new solo material that would result in So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness. It was an embellished solo album, with a majority of the help coming from Mike and Sam. Since both guys were members of Joan of Arc, Tim felt calling the album a Joan of Arc album was only fitting. Other JoA family members and friends (including Chicago Underground's Rob Mazurek) fleshed out the triumphant return to the music world as an abstract yet guitar-driven collective.
The same sessions that brought about Lovelessness also produced over a dozen darker, collage-based Joan of Arc songs. They were released the same year (2003) as In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust.
Somehow Joan of Arc needed to tour to support it's two new albums. Tim called upon his cousin Nate Kinsella and bassist Bobby Burg to help out. The three of them with Mike, Sam and Uli Kuenneke set out to show the world who Joan of Arc really were. A Joan of Arc for the new millennium. This tour would produce Live In Muenster, 2003. This time it was a live album and the group's first to be released through Bobby's own simply titled Record Label.
Tim, Sam, Bobby, Nate and Mike set out to do something completely different and completely instrument driven with Make Believe. The gruelling practice schedule would prove to be too much for Mike, but Make Believe (as a four-piece) came together to do some damage before inviting the largest JoA collective together to create Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain, the group's most melodic album introduced Aloha's Cale Parks as a member, playing mostly vibes. The new songs were a new direction and released on a new label for the Chicagoans (Polyvinyl).
The spirit of gathering together continued with the Kinsellas and seven current and former members of JoA meeting up to be paired off to create guitar duets. Ten were released last year and I did a write-up on the album in April.
Polyvinyl is so thrilled to have the spirit of Joan of Arc back in full swing (even with Make Believe dominating most of it's members' time), that they compiled nineteen songs previously only available on 7"s or compilations and will release them back into the world on July 25th as The Intelligent Design of Joan of Arc. Chris Strong's artwork alone makes the collection essential. Having all the "rarities" on one CD with great sound quality as well as Dr. Lawrence Britt's "14 Points of Fascism" just add to the package.
But July 25th will be much more than a re-release of songs most fans somehow complain of already owning. Tim and the crew surprised their fans by announcing that they had recorded a new album in February. Tim finds himself at home in the center of the work, as well as the studio. Eventually, All At Once was recorded entirely in Tim and Mike's childhood home over the course of just five days. Tim's guitar and vocals are the foundation for the folk-drone feel of the album, but the surprise is just how progressive the album is as a whole. It never feels bogged down with over-production, and it moves at a steady walking pace. Nearly upbeat acoustic guitar strumming and mellow electric guitar bounce are met perfectly by Cale's vibes at numerous points. Where If Joan of Arc were the highly conceptual hypothesizing older brother and Make Believe were the young bucks with innate intelligence but a stronger desire to kick ass, then the new album represents Joan of Arc as the middle child; well-balanced and pleasant. Hopefully, he won't be treated as a Jan Brady just because he's got the experience of Marcia and the simplicity of Cindy. Even Tim's lyrics are more decipherable than is generally the case, which is one of several qualities that makes Eventually the first JoA album to act like a breezy album for the sake of the songs. Without becoming radio-friendly or cheapening any of their identifiable qualities, the guys have all but lost the drive to be evasive and have instead brought forth ten enjoyable songs.
With a retrospective collection and an eloquent new album being released into the wild, July 25th, 2006 is a great way to celebrate ten years of Joan of Arc, not to mention a hell of a way for new listeners to be introduced.

Joan of Arc's "How Wheeling Feels"
from A Portable Model Of

Joan of Arc's "This Life Cumulative"
from How Memory Works

Joan of Arc's "Me (Plural)"
from Live In Chicago, 1999

Joan of Arc's "Me and America (or) The United Colors of the Gap"
from The Gap

Joan of Arc's "What If We Are Not After All, All Destined for Greatness?"
from How Can Any Thing So Little Be Any More?

Joan of Arc's "The Infinite Blessed Yes"
from So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness

Joan of Arc's "Happy 1984 and 2001"
from In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust

Joan of Arc's "As Black Pants Make Cat Hairs Appear"
from Live In Muenster, 2003

Joan of Arc's "Questioning Benjamin Franklin's Ghost"
from Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain

no one is awake's write-up on
Joan of Arc Presents Guitar Duets

Joan of Arc's "Didactic Prom"
from The Intelligent Design Of Joan of Arc & Method & Sentiment 7"

Joan of Arc's "Eventually, All At Once"
& "Miss Cat Piss and Peppermint"
from Eventually, All At Once


Blogger steve said...

mike kinsella said once that his biggest regret used to be not playing high school football but now it is not joining make believe (at the time he didn't feel like partaking in their rigerouos pratice schedule)

imagine how good make believe would be if mike was on second guitar

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Heather said...

interesting song choices

9:52 PM  
Anonymous nina said...

I'd say brilliant song choices.

"As Black Pants..." is the reason Joan of Arc is easily, my favorite Kinsella project, especially the lines "And then the war came and we all found work..." (so on and so forth)

3:21 AM  

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