I guess that it was an eventuality that Joan of Arc would make a record like Boo Human. By that, I mean that they'd eschew the artistic "growth" and the experimentalism that has, well, defined Joan of Arc. "Traditional" has never been the adjective to describe Tim Kinsella's muse. I've liked some Joan of Arc records, and I've hated an amount that probably equals that. Joan of Arc's past few records have felt forced; plenty was there to like, but the fire of enthusiasm seemed to be missing.
Boo Human fires on all pistons, and it captures a band that's aware of its past successes, its strengths, and doesn't really seem to care about trying to push the experimental envelope. To my ears, it's a sign that Joan of Arc fully understands itself; Kinsella and company aren't doing anything different, because they know who they are. For my justification of this belief, I use the mantra of "and you know when you know but you know that you know and you know and you know what you know but you know that you know" in the gorgeous opening "Shown and Told." To my ears, it just about says it all, no?
Better still, unlike their recent albums, Boo Human is quite varied. I like stripped-down, acoustic JOA, but not an entire album's worth. Same thing with the quirky experimental rock. So yeah, you'll find the quirky herky-jerky rock on "Insects Don't Eat Bananas," the mellow jazz-rock on "Just Pack or Unpack," the gorgeous mix-tape worthy love-folk on "If There Was a Time #1," the groovy rock on "The Surrender #2," and the weird political experimental punk freak-out on "9/11 2." As always, Kinsella's lyrics are obtuse, abstract, and make you say, "that's a weird way of saying that, but yeah, i totally know what he means!" I think there's a Destiny's Child reference or two to be found, too.
I've seen comparisons to How Memory Works and A Portable Model Of. I can see that, and those comparisons are definitely apt. Thankfully, with Boo Human, the band's not caught up in trying to create a pastiche of past victories; they're simply being themselves. A surprising, refreshing return to form, this.
Listen To: If There Was a Time 1
Boo Human is out now on Polyvinyl Records
Labels: Joan of Arc, Polyvinyl Records, Reviews J