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Owen:
O, Evelyn
Polyvinyl Records, 2011
www.polyvinylrecords.com
www.owen.com
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Mike Kinsella is a busy guy – he is a brilliant songwriter, a great drummer and a clever guitar player. These qualities keep him in demand – he’s got several projects he works in – he’s an on-again/off-again member of American Football, sometimes drops in and jams on a couple of Joan of Arc songs and releases solo albums under the pseudonym, Owen (his real name is Mike Kinsella, brother of Joan of Arc’s main man, Tim Kinsella).
So far, in between his steady gigs with a smattering of Chicago-area bands, Owen has had time to create five full-length CDs as well as several seven-inchers, CD-singles, etc. A couple years ago, something I got off the internet and if it’s available elsewhere I do not know, he put out there a two-song release entitled Daytrotter Sessions. They were good, typical Owen stuff – dry, laconic love songs with caustic wit and oftentimes a bitter undertone.
Just out now from Chicago’s great Polyvinyl Records is another 2-song release by Owen, you know, to tide us over until the next full-length is put out. This one, if it were a vinyl, 45 RPM record, would have the A-side be “O, Evelyn”, a short, melancholy ditty about a girl he knew and how things all went wrong and even though he should hate her, he finds a place in his heart that still clings to a fondness, bordering on love (there is a thin line between love & hate, you know). The B-side to this 2-song internet download, single, is a cover of the Smiths’ happy tune, “Girlfriend in a Coma”. This version is a stripped-bare cover, clocking in at only 2:18 and, as for instrumentation, there’s just Owen, his voice and his guitar. He may not come across as sincere as Morrissey does, but then again Morrissey’s always bit a tad self-conscious and sensitive. I liked Owen’s version of it because, for one, it was more sardonic and was an interesting juxtaposition for his repertoire.
I really can’t wait to hear more from Owen – like on a full-length CD. While I was happy with New Leaves I still have to be honest with myself and realize that no matter how much I want it to, it just isn’t as good as his first three solo CDs, which is not at all to say that he’s gone soft, just that he’s maybe in a zone that is a work in progress, i.e., he hasn’t found where he’s going yet, but the journey is an ever-wonderful trip of soul-baring, honesty laid bare and purposely putting oneself in a vulnerable position.
O, Evelyn has that magic touch that so sparked his first jump into the deep end of one-man-band solo CD making. It has some similar tones and hooks that I remember from Owen and No Good for No One Now. Let’s hope that he is able to exorcise his demons and return with a severely awesome CD in the near future. These shorter releases – Daytrotter Sessions and now O, Evelyn can be thought of as a catharsis and a search for the perfect chords and style. Amen to that. See you soon…-KM.

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