A horrible hack

Joan of Arc

Life Like

Year Released: 2011
Format: CD
Label: Polyvinyl
Reviewed by Joe Caithness on May 22, 2011
I got sent this promo as Joan of Arc are passing through Nottingham, where I live, in a month, and to be totally honest I have (by my own choice) been cut out of the Kinsella loop. This is perhaps because Joan of Arc seemed to lose their edge half way through "Eventually All At Once", when though the title track is one of their strongest songs, and continued to create albums which lacked memorable quirks, or the closet thing to a "hook" in a Tim Kinsella's weird mind. It has to be said though, I am a big fan of the Joan of Arc world in general, and could happily make a 2 hour long play list of material I considered to be really strong, they just realize a lot of stuff, and to be honest, you don't really need it all.

So I received this and listened with an anticipation that I may be shelving it and going back to keeping one eye on the Joan of Arc stuff as it comes out, waiting for something which can stand up to "Live In Chicago (1999)" or "So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness". My first impression was this has to be their best sounding, production wise, for a long time. This is recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in their hometown of Chicago, and you can tell right away, it's a marmite production sound, but it's worked for these guys before and it works here.

The album, in true wacko Kinsella fashion, opens with an almost 11 minute opus, which twists and turns into a crescendo before you hear the notorious wail of Tim Kinsella. I wondered why I was tolerating this massive, essentially jam, song at the open of the LP, and then I realize who is playing on this record, none other that Victor Villarreal and Bobby Burg. For the people who follow the JOA world, Victor Villarreal was the main guitarist/songwriter in Cap'n Jazz and their reformation as Owls in the early 2000s, and there is something magical about his weird finger picked style with some tuneless shouting over the top. Bobby Burg, who plays with Tim in Make Believe, holds things together nicely in said band by keeping things simple and pounding, he's the glue holding the madness together that is much required.

People who are suckers for the guitar work on the Owls LP are going to really like how the album unfolds, track 2 "Love Life", opens with a signature twisty finger picked jangle and flows into a rather pretty melodic pounding section, which has more in common with the first JOA LP or even Cap'n Jazz than anything they have done in almost 10 years. It's also worth pointing out, that for the first time in a while, Joan of Arc is actually a rock band, and by that, I mean they have a touring/studio band which appears to be pretty stable at the minute, this is confirmed by the fact they are even tight enough to perform Owls songs live, something I am incredibly excited to see when they pass through.

The album rolls though very organically, again a lot like the Owls LP, some very clever structural changes and the two guitarists really nicely weaving and contrasting with each other, just what the doctor ordered. Stand out track for me has to be "Night Life Style", which in just under 4 minutes goes from a pounding discordant freak out into probably the most 'mo sounding thing they have done in years, if that's your poison..

Basically, yes it's the best thing they have done in a very long time, so if you are like me, and have become a Kinsellsceptic over the years, give this a listen ASAP. Also, check out the artwork, it's ace.
Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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