Published Dec 08, 2020If the 2000s had Broken Social Scene as the band with a giant, free flowing pool of talented members who often fronted other bands, Joan of Arc are their 1990s counterpart, sharing major contributors with the likes of American Football, Owls and Cap'n Jazz. It's fitting, then, that this final record merely goes by the first names of the final four: Tim Melina Theo Bobby.
Known for their sardonic, moody take on a blend of twangy emo and crackly indie rock, it's worth noting that Tim Kinsella forsook total lead vocal duties on Joan of Arc's releases only two years ago on 2018's 1984. Alongside him, multimedia artist and musician Melina Ausikaitis has risen as their equally vital new voice. In switching off between Tim's warbling, smoky whispers and Ausikaitis' sneering, hypnotic jabs, Joan of Arc take on an urgent edge to make their last hurrah visceral and exciting.
On this final endeavour, Joan of Arc flawlessly mix industrial, electronic and traditional indie guitar rock elements with masterful songwriting. This wildly varied sonic palette keeps the album unendingly fresh, even upon many repeated listens. A brooding and slow electronic-acoustic moment like "Creature and Being" can quickly give way to darkly groovy, roiling instrumentals like "Land Surveyor" and "The Dawn of Something." There's a bravery in calling it quits while many other 90s contemporary acts (Hum, American Football) are just now reclaiming their former glory, but Joan of Arc make it all seem so easy and essential.
Singles like "Something Kind" simmer just below the surface, with fuzzy guitars and pounding drum choruses alternating with Ausikaitis' stripped back electronic and percussive verses until the guitars finally boil over into a fiery conclusion. Kinsella's own performances are varied and dynamic here, too. Later album cut "Cover Letter Song" uses industrial percussion and drilling bass synths along with Kinsella's half-sung, half-rapped mundane descriptions of his various occupations. "I wrote songs / I mopped floors / I scrubbed toilets / and I wrote" he whines, at odds as he immediately proclaims, "I'm gonna be the next Tim Kinsella."
Album highlight, and closer "Upside Down Bottomless Pit" uses dissonance to end this band's 25-year run on an off-putting, darkly funny note. Every element of the tune threatens to upend the entire song, as Kinsella's smoky rasps manage to bundle the eerie, disparate package together.
If other musicians are looking for a perfect swan song execution, let this be the benchmark. Tasteful inclusions of every kind, powerful melodies and dense, wry lyrics make Tim Melina Theo Bobby an unmissable conclusion for fans of Midwest emo, electronic rock, and strong songwriting. (Joyful Noise)