The legacy of Tim Kinsella is one that begets disappointment in the most polemically inclined critics. One’s panties cannot become sufficiently moistened when writing of an artist whose reputation is partially based on infuriating people, however intentionally or unintentionally. In the annals of punk rock, Kinsella is its Ezra Pound. Like Pound with poetry, Kinsella is considered an innovator in punk rock creativity, but also like Pound, he takes it to such extremes as to bewilder ears and eyes more restrained and conservative, becoming heavy on obscurity and elaborate aesthetics. A takedown of Joan of Arc or any related project that bears the man’s name would be an effort most tiresome as Kinsella continues forthwith on his journey though a version of time and space that is adorned with interlocking fabrics of silk, wool and polyester.
The problem is that punk is not used to what I perceive Joan of Arc to be, thought music. Think of punk as a forked road. It is often that bands travel the one dusty prong that leads to a music born of the rhythms of the heart; Kinsella leads his extensive army of collaborators down the seldom-travelled road where music that accentuates the colors of the mind is to be played. What those colors are, and what thoughts may come from them is entirely up to the listener, at least that’s my guess since Kinsella’s lyrics remain as obscure as they’ve ever been (“No one wants to die/ With a couple hundred bucks in the sock drawer/ I snuggle up next to your name to keep you warm“). Flowers is a flexible, sonically diverse album, boastful of its lack of rhythms and coherent structures. Much of what constitutes the album is structure-phobic jams, sometimes producing a rare kind of noise that demystifies the conventional wisdom that all noise must be unflinchingly harsh. Rather the noise perplexes and raises eyebrows. Depending on the dramatic tendencies of a given listener, one might be so provoked by these avant-garde flytraps that they will ask no one in particular all the questions that have put life itself on trial. Why is it done this way? Is this good or is this good? Where chords and sounds don’t fall to pieces, they meander at their whim from stupor to coherence and back again. Kinsella gets due credit for at least having a knack for the art of inconsistency. People who are into xylophones will be pleased to that there is a xylophone somewhere in there as well.
This is not to say that much of the album is not boring. Good lord is it ever. Anyone whose Inner and outer being remains festooned with the exuberance of youth will find no greater an adversary to it. Harvey Mansfield might be more entertaining than this. Kinsella, it seems, has built a museum, filled it with odd sculptures that are really just Pinto mufflers and gave this album out as the audio guide. If one has the tendency to sit down in solitude for no apparent reason, Joan of Arc has given you one, enjoy. For everyone else there are the text books of the future that Joan of Arc will surely endure in their [I’m assuming Kindle-based] pages a heinous canonization.
Make Believe – Shock of Being
Pele – Elephant
Aloha – Some Echoes