Joan of Arc | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joan of Arc

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JOAN OF ARC

"I'm just so, so / So sick / Of the city," Tim Kinsella moans quietly into a tape recorder on the title piece of Joan of Arc's forthcoming third album, Live in Chicago, 1999 (which is not a concert record; you pronounce the "i" short). "I'm just so sick of shouting / Monosyllabically." It's a repudiation of rock in the middle of a rock moment: most of the track is furious drumming, which cuts out when Kinsella starts singing. In fact the band's whole raison d'etre seems to be the arty denial of the emo-core aesthetic to which Kinsella's old group Cap'n Jazz subscribed--fingerpicked tone rows rather than riffs, dissonant billows of electronics and empty space rather than rhythmic catharsis, abstract poetry rather than heartfelt emoting. On Live Kinsella has narrowed the focus of his abstractions, messing repeatedly with his role as a singer. He spends the first half of the disc mumbling like he's afraid of waking someone up, and on "I'm Certainly Not Pleased With My Options for the Future" he describes the song instead of singing it. When he finally opens up and croons, it's on an overwrought piano ballad that purposely keeps wobbling out of focus. It's easy to see how this could strike some as pretty arch, but like Gastr del Sol (from whom Joan of Arc seems to have gotten its secondhand John Fahey-isms), the band comes up with some beguiling, surprising arrangements that make up for the pretentious streak. Live's "If It Feels / Good Do It" is exceptionally fetching, with percussive guitar, trumpet, and Kinsella's voice all pivoting around one never-resolved acoustic chord. And if "Better De'd Than Read" is clearly the son of Gastr's "Bauchredner," at least it's got its father's pellucid guitar tone. Kinsella's doing some dates with only guitarist Todd Mattei, but they promise a full band for tonight's show, which should force them to tone down the art-school excess a bit. Thursday, April 22, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. DOUGLAS WOLK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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