August 29, 2005

Joan of Arc/Owen/Love of Everything/Make Believe "The Association of Utopian Hologram Swallowers"

As Joan of Arc embarks on its second decade, Joan of Arc's ethic has changed; instead of feeling like a solid band, it's seemingly mutated into a collective of talented minds. Experimentation has always been par for the course, with alter-egos, alternate band names and records that challenge and frustrate litter this group's discography. Some of these diversions have been quite excellent, while some of them...not so good. Their music has always been somewhat of an acquired taste, but you can't accuse Joan of Arc of being intellectually lazy. But when you consider Joan of Arc circa 2005, what you find is quite interesting: their most recent album, Joan Of Arc Presents Guitar Duets is a collection of improvised guitar duets; last year they formed an overdub-free band, Make Believe, that's basically Joan of Arc with a different name and less stigma, and two members have solo projects that circle around Joan of Arc's sphere of influence. To say that Joan of Arc should still be considered as Tim Kinsella's project is a bit disingenious, because there's plenty of talent in his band, and he's not the only talented Kinsella, either.

It's with the spirit of higlighting the groups many talents that they've released a double-seven inch EP, The Association of Utopian Hologram Swallowers. Each band is granted a different side, allowing--if ever so briefly--the ability for each musicial outlet to express its brilliance. The Love of Everything presents two quirky,cute indie-pop numbers, "Keep Off of Me" and "Proud by Looking Around," which are charming if you enjoy smart music sung by an occasionally off-key singer. It's easy to hear the Joan of Arc influence, especially in Bobby Berg's singing. Unlike previous records, Berg focused on the songwriting and produced two really great songs. Joan of Arc offers up "Violencii or Violencum," a surprisingly upbeat lo-fi number that's rough and raw and kind of different from what you'd usually expect--it sounds like the entire band is taking turns on vocals, singing in the round--but it's also quite pleasant. The second single starts off with Mike Kinsella's project Owen, whose "I'm Not Seventeen" is quiet and sad and pretty, and it doesn't differ that much from his previous work. The same can be said of Make Believe's side, which surprisingly sounds more like Joan of Arc than "Violencii or Violencum." They're a great band, and "One Second WIde and Weeks Deep" clearly rivals anything on How Memory Works and A Portable Model Of.

Say what you will of the Joan of Arc collective, but you can't accuse them of not making great music. The Association of Utopian Hologram Swallowers is a unique but ultimately rewarding set, and it will quell any kind of notions you might have that Kinsella and company squandered their talents years ago. All of these projects are worthy of your attention, and may the four continue to make excellent music.

--Joseph Kyle

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