Make Believe - Shock of Being
Record Label: Polyvinyl
Release Date: October 4, 2005
Joan of Arc is one of my favorite bands, but I totally understand when people argue that their songs go nowhere. I’m pretty sure that’s the impression that they want you to get – they strive to be mysterious to the point of borderline unlistenability. So, it’s only logical that the band members would form another group – with pretty much the exact same people – and aim at rocking a little harder, a little more in the vein of Tim Kinsella’s first band Cap’n Jazz. That heavier side project (and heavier in this sense pretty much just means ‘easier to digest’, not hard rock or metal) would be Make Believe, whose Shock of Being just will not get out of my cd player.
Since this is about the 400th band Tim Kinsella has founded (many of them running simultaneously), it would make sense to overlook Make Believe in the Chicago indie scene. But as anyone who has heard their music should tell you, that would be a crying shame. Sure, Joan of Arc’s signature fragmented, over-the-top jazzy guitar lines are still just all over the place, but this time the guys fit them on top of drum beats and catchy bass lines so that the ‘pieces’ sound like songs – not art projects.
As the result of actually jamming these guitar parts into some context, songs like “Say What You Mean” sound either like Maps N Atlases or like The Advantage’s video game music, varying by listen. Kinsella’s Tourettes-like wailing over the track is enough to guarantee the radio will overlook Make Believe forever, but it’s actually a really cool touch – I’d prefer if he’d always growl like this instead of sticking to his general atonal croon. Don’t get me wrong, I like the dude’s atonal crooning as much as the next guy… but it’s cool to hear something new.
Kinsella goes back to his original batshit insane style of lyric writing (remember in Cap’n Jazz when he just randomly screamed the alphabet at you?) as opposed to his ridiculously literate Joan of Arc lyrics. Politics have their place in music, sure, but so does fun, and if Tim Kinsella can’t balance the two things at once then we’ll all just have to listen to both of his bands.
Overall I was really surprised by how cool this cd is. Again, I’ve been a fan of Kinsella for a while, but even to me Make Believe stands out as some of his best work. This is about as conventional as he gets – even if it’s still in who-knows-what time signature and the lyrics are about teaching a cat to moonwalk. It’s cool to hear a guy who has such a serious reputation have a good time.
Recommended If You Like:
Joan of Arc’s Dick Cheney, Cap’n Jazz, Owls. Yeah, that’s right – it sounds like other Tim Kinsella bands.