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CD review: Life Like by Joan of Arc


Joan of Arc
Life Like
Polyvinyl Records 2011
www.polyvinylrecords.com
www.joanfrc.com

Reviewed by Kent Manthie
It’s been 14 years so far and still the brilliant revolving-door- “collective” known as Joan of Arc are still making awe-inspiring CDs. The new one, entitled Life Like is a bit more cohesive, with a more stable lineup situation and a not disjointed recording process. It has all the marks of what’s always made a Joan of Arc album great: cleverness, snarky jabs, cynical puns, in-jokes and a general avant-garde attitude where symbols and metaphors reign supreme.
This time around JOA are: Tim Kinsella, Bobby Burg, Theo Katsaounis and, after a bit of a hiatus from JOA, Victor Villareal is back as well.
About 18 months ago Joan of Arc Presents: Don’t Mind Control was released, wherein a smattering of side projects and solo works were collected and worked into a compilation of what the guys in Joan of Arc do when there not doing Joan of Arc stuff (like, say, touring…ahem…but we are grateful to see them coming to the West Coast in May, so THANKS!). It was put together using songs from side projects and solo works of current and former Joan of Arc bandmates such as Cale Parks, Owen (Mike Kinsella), Tim Kinsella, Jeremy Boyle, Sam Zurick and bands like Euphone, The Cairo Gang and Ghosts & Vodka, Joan of Arc to name a few.
Then, just when you hardcore JOA fans started wondering when your next fix was arriving, JOA put out a tantalizing 2-song release, Meaningful Work late last year and now there is something even bigger to celebrate: the imminent release of the full-length Life Like, coming out in May, a full-length disc that is just inspiring and does not stretch thin their musical boundaries – meaning no selling out, just straight ahead, do-what-they-please music, which is always better, always more inspiring and head-turning than anything that is planned to death.
In my humble opinion, Life Like is even better than their previous full-length effort, Flowers (2009). I think it may have something to do with the cohesiveness of the latter and lack of on the former – Flowers was recorded in 2009 in four different sessions, with four different line-ups, but it still came out well. Life Like is more together-sounding and is more reminiscent of albums such as Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain… and Live in Chicago: 1999.
I’m not quite sure, yet, what it is that makes this one more special, as if they’ve come back from the dead or back from the brink of an abysmal precipice, but it shines the way a Joan of Arc album does when you think of one in the abstract.
All the side projects/bands, etc that they are involved in individually (the focus of …Don’t Mind Control) seem to be what keeps Joan of Arc together, ironically. Tim’s brother, Mike, who occasionally plays drums or acoustic guitar on a song or three per JOA album, has recorded 5 solo albums under the pseudonym, Owen. There’s also added input and talent from another helpful family member: cousin Nate (Kinsella), who not only helps out playing the occasional keyboard or guitar but does some knob-twisting, kicking it on the other side of the glass sometimes. Whatever it is that makes it work for Joan of Arc they have the formula down pat and with each new release they churn out, excitement is generated. –KM

1 comment to CD review: Life Like by Joan of Arc

  • Kent

    Joan of Arc coming to the Casbah, San Diego, CA on May 16, 2011!!! Probably the best show to come to the area this year (unless you like saccharine & mistrust).

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