Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Joan of Arc/JSBX

Joan Of Arc- How Memory Works

To me, Tim Kinsella fans are like victims of alien abduction- I’ve read that they’re out there, but I don’t ever expect to actually meet one. And if I did meet one, I’d likely think s/he was a total crackpot, perhaps teetering on the border of sanity.

All right, maybe I’m being a little bit hard on victims of alien abduction.

Tim Kinsella was in Cap’n Jazz, who I thought were pretty cool (although being in a band whose most popular song is a cover [‘Take On Me’] is veering a little to close to Dando County for comfort, I’d guess). Beyond Cap’n Jazz, though, I’ve never gotten it. Neither Owls nor Joan of Arc has done a thing for me. Well, that’s not entirely true- there are whole moments on ‘How Memory Works’ where I think the band (?) is going to break out into a whole song, not just a little fragment. Those moments, where it appears everything is going to come together, show so much potential that I inevitably stick it out and check out the whole record (the moments of me listening, of course, taking place roughly once every five years). This isn’t a band, though, that plays nuggets of goodness that are long enough to latch onto, like the fractured pop haikus of Guided by Voices. No, Joan of Arc noodles, wastes time, stands around, hits you with a little bit, runs away. Repeats. There’s not enough to grab ahold of, nothing obnoxious enough to use as a real credible argument against them musically.

The whole elusiveness factor makes it easy for fanzines to run pieces on Kinsella, calling him like a ‘wispy genius’ or some shit. Whatever, pal. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean a) it’s genius, or b) there’s something to understand. I’m over irony; I’m over dada-as-irony. And I’m over little green men and flying saucers, all that shit. Sorry.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion- Extra Width

Every fucking WORD of this record is a complete non-sequitor. But man, it’s all so catchy and funny that you want to be included in the club. Zero sense is made over the course of eleven tracks, but it doesn’t even matter because Spencer delivers it all with gusto and confidence. You totally believe it when he goes, like, “Six o’clock! Seven o’clock! Eight o’clock! ALL RIGHT!” You’re right there, front and center, grabbing your crotch and hoistin’ yr. Schlitz tallboy up in the air as the band bashes away somewhere in the back of your speakers, which have mysteriously gotten really shitty and blown out since you put the record on. Then you’re like “hey, wait a minute- this guy is completely full of shit!” Then he starts shouting out the names of rest stops on the Jersey Turnpike- “John Fenwick! Joyce Kilmer! Clara Barton! Vince Lombardi!”-and you’re like what the hell and shotgun the can and start looking around for another one. And then start taking mental notes so that you can sing along with the band’s totally meaningless (but awesome) bullshit the next time you listen to the record.

You gotta be exceptionally gifted to be this dumb.

MIX TAPE: Pant Leg

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion- Orange

More of the smart/dumb stripped-down goodness, taking the time to make the production more accessible (not a hard thing to do) and adding little flourishes here and there- ‘Bellbottoms’ starts with Studio 54 strings encouraging you, the listener, to party down with the funky, bluesy band. What was their name again? If you happen to forget during the course of the excess, all you have to do is lift your head from the mirror and prick your ears up for like five or six seconds to hear Mr. Spencer (or Mr. Bauer or Mr. Simmons, or all three) shout out ‘Blues Explosion!’ before they go back to signing about digging ditches or sweating or fucking full-grown women. Seriously- I remember when the band opened for the Beastie Boys, I had this exact conversation like five or six times:

Me: What did you think of the Blues Explosion?

Not me: Oh, the opening band? All they did was yell ‘Blues Explosion’ over and over again.

M: Yep. Wasn’t it great?

NM: (silence, then) I guess it was, yeah.

The yelling wouldn’t mean shit if the band didn’t have the chops to pull it off, but they totally do. The ‘blues’ thing must have infuriated the purists- I’m reminded of that scene in ‘Ghost World’ where Seymour and Enid go to some bar to see an actual blues musician open for some like ‘swamp blues’ act that’s more of a frathouse band than anything. The frat, in this case, is indie rock, and man, these are the catchiest songs the band has ever written. Just as good as ‘Width,’ if not better.

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