Joan of Arc Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain

    The Intelligent Design of Joan of Arc


    I think I’ll just start with, “No, thanks.”


    Despite what you might think, it’s incredibly difficult to pan an album. Drawing creative words from uninspiring art is like gleaning interesting quotes out of professional athletes — it doesn’t happen easily (if at all). As a person who loves music, I sometimes wish I could only write about stuff I love (or only highlight the redeeming qualities of the stuff I hate) but, damn it, that’s not how this reviewing thing works.


    Which brings me to Joan of Arc, a Chicago band that for some reason tempts me with each subsequent album. I have no idea why I keep coming back. In fact, it doesn’t seem like anyone actually likes Joan of Arc; the band is consistently torn apart by critics without patience enough to wade through all the bullshit in hopes of finding some sort of genius buried beneath. (It might be down there, but fuck if I’m willing to dig for it, because I’m fairly certain I’d only find a fossilized cow pie.) So why the hell would anyone want The Intelligent Design, which is essentially a compilation of songs that weren’t even good enough to make it onto the band’s albums?


    The root problem is, of course, Joan of Arc honcho, Tim Kinsella (Cap n’ Jazz, Make Believe, Owls), a whiney, self-indulgent singer with little discretion for the difference between quality and garbage and the kind of dude who probably burped into a tape recorder when he was little and played it on repeat for all his friends. (That’s not really fair but, then again, neither is having to listen to this album.)


    If you’ll allow me a comparison: Xiu Xiu‘s Jamie Stewart is the perfect debunker to Kinsella’s game. Stewart trumps conformity by infusing his music with an emotional pull that can have you tearing up in adoration even if Stewart just landed a musical money shot in your eye and you can’t find the Kleenex. Kinsella comes across as the entirely unreliable narrator, someone empty and devious who makes it extremely difficult to pull any emotional content whatsoever from the songs.


    Just when you expect the Akron/Family-ish opener, “Didactic Prom,” to rollick into a triumphant battle cry, the track ends, leaving nothing in its wake. Elsewhere, songs with entirely too long of titles futz around in mindless noise collages or strum-a-thons that do little more than make you wish Kinsella would have ridden that beautiful melody briefly contained in such tracks as “Please Don’t Mistake My Arrogance for Shyness” a little longer. Instead, Kinsella seems content on withholding the miniscule glimpses of musically intriguing fare. Look at him — getting off.


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