Review Summary: The bottom of the barrel for Tim Kinsella-fronted projects, Of Course has its moments, but is far too annoying to fully enjoy.
It worked well enough with Owls, was astounding at times with Joan of Arc, and was pretty much perfect in Cap’n Jazz. It almost emphasized the tension and strain the songwriting was putting forth. Flailing, like a fish-out-of-water, it had that relatable quality, but it still seemed so unattainable. And we were all happy with it that way. Maybe that’s why we wrote the names of the songs it sang across every inch of blank notebook space in our binder, maybe that’s why we placed the bands it fronted above such classics as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on lists of our favorites. Because it just worked.
So why does Tim Kinsella’s voice sound so useless on Of Course, the second album from his 5th musical project, Make Believe? It could be a side-effect of 31 cold Chicago winters, or maybe the result of shouting away so much of his youth. Or maybe Kinsella’s voice is only as good as the music that backs it. Make Believe, despite containing a couple members of previous (better) Kinsella projects, just isn’t that
great. Guitarist Sam Zurick (Cap’n Jazz, Owls, Joan of Arc) is definitely a good musician, but his strange style of playing weighs one’s nerves constantly. He definitely takes influence from the sounds of Tim Kasher and Ted Stevens, of former tour-mates Cursive, and their defining, guitar-based album Domestica, but his parts never reach the level of surprisingly poignant angularity that the latter artists do so many times on that particular album. Make Believe is definitely a heavier outing as opposed to many other Tim Kinsella projects, taking the chunky punk fuzz of Cap’n Jazz and combining it with obtuse licks and, at times, a powerful, almost Black Sabbath-like, stomp (see: Sometimes I See Sideways.) The rest of the band’s music seems to reflect this ‘experimentation for experimentation’s sake’ ethos that Zurick plays with, granted though, it’s to a much lesser extent. Many songs sound loose or shoddy, and they all lack a certain element that I can’t put my finger on.
Regardless, the band comes up with a couple cool ones. Bisect Duality is one of these. Though it still suffers from overly annoying guitar-work, the song’s chorus is definitely note-worthy; showcasing Tim’s pleasing vocal nuances to their full extent and housing one of the best guitar parts on the album. The following track, Plants Dance, is just as good, and possibly the album’s best example of the band’s sloppy dynamic actually working
. A 2.5 is a tough mark for me to give any band, especially one with one of my favorite songwriters in it, but there’s hardly a more appropriate record to dole it out to. A definite disappointment.