Joan Of Arc – ‘Life Like’

Review by Chris Hampton

Though I count the Kinsellas among my favourite musicians, Joan of Arc has been a tricky band to follow.  How Memory Works and So Much Staying Alive and Lovelessness are early favourites.  Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain and Boo! Human – both great.  To be certain, all of their works peaks at brilliance, but in their twenty or so releases, sometimes I don’t get my Tim Kinsella & Co. cooked quite the way I like it. Life Like finds Joan of Arc pared back to a four-man format, bringing forth an album – more raucous, more college, more my-kind-of-kinsella – that’s got me all ears, all over again.

Sam Zurick is still out, but Victor Villarreal has joined following last year’s Cap’n Jazz reunion.  With Vic’s return and back at Electrical Audio in front of Albini, the whole thing smacks so welcomingly of the 2001 Owls release – a perennial wish-they-made-more-than-one-album mention. Tim delivers with his trademark mania – cavalier, cryptic and delirious.  By minute eight of “I Saw the Messed Binds of My Generation,” I’m pretty convinced that this is the closest fans will get to the love-at-first-listen magic of the Schmap’n Schmazz and Owls records, short proper back-in-studio reunions.  Seven tracks in, and I’ve more or less forgotten that Theo Katsaounis has taken the sticks from Mike Kinsella full-time; he’s got the crafty, syncopated beats to taste.  However, the most welcome addition is Villarreal, his guitar gears up and down, from meditative to dizzying, beautifully intoning Kinsella’s raves and sermons.

To me, Life Like sounds like a revisit, and a necessary one at that – for either something dead and never eulogized or lost and never looked for.  For JoA fans old and new, I’m hoping Life Like is the latter, an exercise in reunion and rediscovery that will bring us more fruits in the future.