This week’s Featured Album on the Basement is the 24th and final album from Joan of Arc, Tim Melina Theo Bobby.
Band breakups suck. It’s a shame when a group making music you love decides to call it quits. It especially stings in 2020 with the inability to tour, rendering the attendees of a dissolving band’s previous tour the unassuming final witnesses. Groups like The White Stripes, Slint, R.E.M., and Pavement spring to mind; one day you see them, the next they’re gone. Just in the last couple years, we’ve lost groups like Babes in Toyland, Yeasayer, Black Dresses, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Thursday, Slayer; plus we’ve lost gifted musicians like David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains), Eddie Van Halen, Spencer Davis, Philippe Zdar (Cassius), David Roback (Mazzy Star), Andrew Weatherall; god damn, I could go on forever.
But the loss of a musical project is not exclusively a time to mourn - it’s also a time to reflect and celebrate the music we got to experience. I’ll admit - I had my first real Bowie phase not too long after he passed. Now some of those records are some of the most near and dear to my heart.
Joan of Arc may be gone, but they have given us a parting gift - Tim Melina Theo Bobby, a 10-song portraiture of fractured modern living. These aren’t happy songs per se, but they are engaging tunes ready to help you reflect on a long and diverse career.
If you’re unfamiliar with Joan of Arc, the group is the brainchild of Chicago-based auteur Tim Kinsella, whose storied history in indie is hard to compare. Along with his brother Mike (American Football, Owen), Tim played in the influential emo group Cap’n Jazz, cementing the Kinsellas as emotional forces to be reckoned with. He’s also played with Owls, Make Believe, Friend/Enemy, collaborated with his brother Mike’s solo project Owen as well as Angel Olsen, ex-Wilco instrumentalist LeRoy Bach, JOA vets Jeremy Boyle & Todd Mattei, and currently fronts the duo Good F**k with Jenny Pulse. (I wasn’t lying when I said his career was storied.)
After Cap’n Jazz broke up, Tim formed Joan of Arc as a so-called “self-conscious distancing” from his history with Cap’n Jazz, first releasing their debut LP “A Portable Model Of…” in 1997. Ever since the beginning of Joan of Arc, they’ve been a norm-breaking, sometimes divisive group, making art rock that operated on the cutting edge of indie music. They’ve garnered praise and contempt - infamously upon its release, Pitchfork rated their 2000 album “The Gap” 1.9/10 (for some god-forsaken reason that I don’t understand. I quite like The Gap).
While they don’t deliver the same click-and-cut madness from The Gap on Tim Melina Theo Bobby, Tim and co. still manage to twist the stereotypes labeled on their contemporaries, melding avant-rock sensibilities with modern pop disposition. From the folk-electronic single Karma Repair Kit, to the crazy rhythms (Ha! Reference!) on The Dawn of Something, Tim Melina Theo Bobby brings it all back home with an engaging pop record to salute away one of indie music’s most exciting quandaries.
As a music listener motivated to preserve the important facets of yesteryear, I implore you to not let moments like these go without reflection. A band like this does not come often, so I’d wager it’s in your best interest to prep your headphones and fall into the abyss that is (was?) Joan of Arc.
Thanks for all the tunes JOA. Godspeed.