When I heard that the title of the new Joan Of Arc album was Joan Of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain... I was prepared to hate it. Although they've never been a group that shies away from what most people would consider pretentious (and in fact have reveled in that at times). In fact, though, this newest release from the group is not only their most epic in scope, but probably their best in terms of bridging their more experimental qualities with a rather tidy pop sensibility in places. Clocking in with 17 tracks and almost an hours time, the release also features contributions from not only regular members but a cast of about 10 others (including members of Aloha, Town And Country, and several other bands).
Although the release still drops off into sheer weirdness on a couple occasions, this is also the most musical album from the group and it dips into so many genres that the cumilative effect of listening to the disc is a bit dizzying at times (which is at least probably part of the intention). The release opens with "Questioning Benjamin Franklin's Ghost," and it seems clear from the outset that although some idiocyncracities are still there (odd timing signatures and bizarre lyrics), musically the album will be a bit different. Hopping along with a nice piano melody, the track is accented by strings and vibraphones and a nice swath of percussion.
From there, things get a little closer to what you might expect as "Apocolypse Politics" is a stripped-down guitar and vocal track while "The Title Track Of This Album" is manipulated loops of mechanical tools while numerous voices spit out the title character names. If things weren't strange enough yet, "Queasy Lynn" sounds like a twisted New Orleans carny stomp with a loping rhythm, string punctuations and organ stabs while Tim Kinsella spits out some of his most over-the-top (and yet oddly compelling) vocals on the entire release.
In other places, the album doesn't quite work as well. "Deep Rush" is an electronic experiment that sounds like someone fiddling with a circuit bent casio while "'Still' From Miss Kate's Texture Dictionary" is another needless stew of electronic noodling that doesn't really add anything to the release. When the group hits stride, though, they do quite interesting work. The unfortunately titled "Fleshy Jeffrey" is a warm mix of rhodes, vibes and accordion that blend perfectly with the vocals of Kinsella, who lets loose with a yell several times. In the end, the release is challenging at times and downright frustrating at others, yet it's still probably the most cohesive release that the rotating group has put out.