Joan of Arc – Flowers
Record Label: Polyvinyl
Release Date: June 9, 2009
In the press release for Flowers, bandleader / sole Joan of Arc mainstay Tim Kinsella is quoted as noting that it’s tougher to make a tenth album than a debut. This late in the discography, fans already have their set expectations for what the music should sound like, and the group has to “live up to and surpass” these expectations. Kinsella’s concerns are warranted, as Joan of Arc have indeed made a name for themselves by pushing the envelope sonically and musically to the point that the name “Kinsella” is now synonymous with a certain brand of experimental musical procedures. How could they possibly surpass their most out-on-a-limb efforts, such as 2000’s impossibly sprawling The Gap, and any other examples you could name?
Easy answer: mostly, they don’t. In fact, they do the opposite. Following in the footsteps of Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain, and Boo! Human, Joan of Arc continues to write more direct music (at least, direct by Joan of Arc standards.) Sometimes that’s a good thing. Rocker “Life Sentence / Twisted Latter” comes off like a Sonic Youth homage with its sharply electric riff and a noise-blast finish. It’s a more garage side of the band that we’ve never seen before, and it’s very welcome.
Other times, though, as in the snoozer “The Garden of Cartoon Exclamations”, you wish Joan of Arc would stick to their old bag of tricks. It takes half the track for these limp piano chords to finally give way to something with a pulse. Don’t get me wrong – the track does rock when they switch it up, but for those first 3 minutes, you’ll think you picked up the wrong album.
Yes, the music is certainly direct, but a few specific tracks do strike the listener as “daring”, in that Joan of Arc have never made anything like them before. Opener “Fogbow” finds the group experimenting with electronics, and the Kid A drums surprisingly suit them well. Equally surprising is “Explain Yourself #2”, a barebones track of raw experimentation that really must be heard to be believed. Trust me that both of these risks work in the bands favor, and the tracks will stay in your head all day (especially that opening “riff” from “Explain”.)
As usual there’s a track of kind-of-eerie computer sound effects that’s obvious filler called “Fasting”. If the group were to add some of these weird sounds to musical tracks, it’d probably sound great. As it is, though, tracks like these were what made Dick Cheney way too long (that album had like five of them), and nobody’s interested in hearing another one.
Flowers is a good album that could have been a great album with a few editing snips here and there. I’d rank it a little below Dick Cheney and Boo! Human, right next to Eventually, All At Once and In Rape Fantasy And Terror Sex We Trust. If you haven’t heard these albums, get a move on! Don’t wait ten more albums to catch up.
Not that you would know, Tim, being that you are the kind of music-hermit who only listens to his own records, we are probably one of those bands you refer to, if not, we might as well be.
I'd just like to point out to everyone that Tim is old, jaded, ill informed and his very own bands not only submit for the tours of the bands he disses, but Tim is a member of joan of arc and make believe, both of which are still relatively poppy run of the mill progressive psuedo- mathy emo bands. he was on jade tree records which, though an indie, is still a COG IN THE EMO MACHINE HE CLAIMS IS CULTURE EATING ITSELF. To someone even more jaded, he would be the complete tool for ushering in the entire emo movement.
By refusing to embrace humanism and try to understand, rather than alienate the next generation and their choice in music or how they choose to express himself, he has become a fascist neo conservative of rock and roll: the worst kind of hypocrite. Don't let this asshole tell you what to do or even joke about the music your pour your passion into.
If bad bands exist, they exist so good bands can come and take their place: so art and expression can constantly evolve. Keep making music. If you don't like the music that's around, FORM YOUR OWN FUCKING BAND. MAKE A BIG FUCKING ROCK AND ROLL RECORD OR BETTER YET, SOME SUB PAR MATH ROCK RECORD ABOUT HOW CORPORATE AMERICA DICTATES FASHIONS, TRENDS, AND THUS, THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. Don't BITCH ABOUT IT and try and cross promote your own INFLATED SELF by writing AN ARTICLE in a youth cultured magazine that will only make KIDS FEEL SHITTY ABOUT THEMSELVES and WHO THEY ARE: something as disgusting as homophobia, genderism, or ignorance that you preach against. You are emophobic. Self LOATHING EMOPHOBIC. And the sick thing is, I love the music you make. It influences my music. And you are a part of this, not to mention the fact that you've been reviewed and mentioned countless times in Alternative Press. Of course you'd pick a fight with one of the smaller publications that exist. What about Rolling Stone. What about fucking TIME MAGAZINE, Tim?
If you're one Tim's six friends, send his this message:
FUCK YOU KINSELLA. YOUR REVOLUTION IS DEAD AND WAS BORN OUT OF LAZINESS.
P.S I RIPPED YOUR LAST RECORD.
In response to
Beirut. The Patriot Act. Palestine. Africa. Wal-Mart. Clear Channel. Peak oil. Global devastation. The backward talk of those in power that dominates and suffocates our cultural discourse. Overpopulation. The dawning of neo-feudalist Theocracy in America. It's a busy, interesting place we've got here. Lots of information aimed at us. The hidden hand of power.
But beyond our control, dark energy, string theory, conceptions of an infinite mutiverse render any issues of free obsolete. We are really only allowed questions. WE can't understand anything. How could we? We live at the lip of the bubble of understanding of our own designs - never not curious, and never able to poke through.
So my point - I do have one - is that in our world, the most basic requirement we share is kept in balance only if it's shaken in many directions at the same time. And what can any of us do to help rectify the situation? We must integrate our politics into our lifestyle, acknowledge that every bridge, hook, melody and sales strategy has political demensions.
In short, I am asking that every band that appeared in the August 2006 issue of Alternative Press break up.
Desperate times require desperate measures. There's no good reason why "ex-rockstar" shouldn't be the most common job in the future. It's obvious from flipping through an issue of this magazine that there are too many bands, all trying in different ways to look and sound like each other. It's unsustainable. Why don't you guys all save yourself the inevitable worry and humiliation the future holds, break up now, and be the first mass movement in cutural history to self-consciously commit suicide?
There are pictures of maybe half a dozen people in that issue that I know, trust, respect and consider my friends. And I'm sorry to ask this of you guys, some of you have helped us in the past, and I appreciate it, but our country needs you. Your bands have to break up. You guys on the cover (one of you was 13 in 2001, so you're now at draft age), we need you to quit.
Even you guys that just had a thumbnail band photo in an ad, sorry. Collateral damage, I guess. However you each choose to understand it, let's all agree we need to draw the line clearly. Every band whose name is even mentioned in the August 2006 issue of AP must break up immediately. So, Cute Is What We Aim For, consider your new aim ansering the call of our country. Underoath, pledge allegiance to the freedom of your fellow citizens. Circa Survive, you ran an add, and I'm sorry, that's enough. You must not survive.
I know this seems like a bummer to you guys, but think about it. Throughout history, music has been at the center of every culture. Music is what people have always had between them to help each other understand how to live. The values of a culture are hiddin within its music. And I dont mean that in a Christian-rock or straight-edge way. I mean our culture is not only sick, but its taking the whole world down with it, and its symptoms are in song structures and rituals of performance.
The simplistic, sensational, emotionalistim of soaring crescendos - whose success or failure relate only to how familiar they seem on first listen - must become tired and redundant by design. When you reach your saturation point and can no longer react to these octave chords' urgent demands, then what? Will all displays of emotion seem silly? Mustn't it be true, like the boy who cried wolf, that every feigned-spontaneous emotional signifier thrust upon you by some band will just deaden your sense of empathy in the future? Perhaps even in a real-world situation, with real-world consequences? If TV and reality can be so interwined, past signifiers of rebellion is rebellion, and this is punk rock, why not?
Don't the sensationalist requirements of vicarious catharsis ask so much, that our empathy will be spent before it ever has a chance to blossom? I mean, I might not be able to understand when someone is hurting - and in turn know how to help them - if my formative experiences with understanding emotions is via these fashionable men and women.
But it's not too late. If the bands break up, maybe we can have music again in the future, and we will be able to hear it for what it is - not what it's being sold as.
I know this is a lot to ask of bands. And no one 22-year-old New Jersey kid is to blame - it's the design that is flawed. But one can't stay quiet. One has a responsibility to stand up for what one sees as god and right in the world, and if my plea can make a difference in even one young band's life - if just one band breaks up - my work here will have been worth it.
sometimes i wonder if emo music is objectifying, um, emotions. Its like sex of TV, we see it all the time, and now sex supposedly isn't a big deal
violence. In videogames and TV. I just watched a movie where a man was blown to shreds. Really, I should have felt sincerely sorry for the man. I instead thought that the graphics were amazing.
And emotional music is making extreme emotional outbursts okay. Is this bad? I don't rightfully know, imo. But kinsella has one good point about emo music, its all about finding the most epic band or song. And that is in itself not a good approach to finding/enjoying music.
Should all emo bands breakup? Probably not. Are there way to many emo bands? I believe so
Cap'N Jazz is cool, but I've always felt that in Joan, Tim is much too self-indulgent and aggresively inaccessible with his music... it's almost like he's trying to prove to himself that he's unique and too good for conforming with typical song structures. I still kinda like them though, so I'll have to give this a listen!