Flowers is a weird album. On one hand, it’s completely terrible: it’s overly ambitious, pretentious, and ridiculous, often delving into experiments that are way over the band’s collective head. Joan of Arc---a Chicagoan band known for being led by Tim Kinsella and for incorporating electronica influences into their brand of mopey indie-rock---take some welcome chances here, giving their take on psychedelia, sound collages, and, most notably, the New Weird America movement. The results, however, tend to be unfortunately derivative and terrible: “Flowers” is an overblown and tired Sung Tongs- or Visiter-copycat, while “Fasting”, “Table of the Laments”, and “Fable of the Elements” are simply art for art’s sake: no substance, no point. Each is directionless, ‘experimental’ filler, and their inclusion is a mystery: the album’s plenty long enough and satisfying enough without them.
On another hand, Flowers is a big deal: it’s finally a move away from the mundane rut---a rut filled with tired and unremarkable indie pop---that Joan of Arc has found themselves in for the past few years. This rut was undoubtedly caused by the band’s relentless prolificacy: Flowers is the band’s twelfth album in as many years. Some of Flowers does recall their past albums, but these songs surprisingly tend to be standouts: “Explain Yourself” and “Fogbow” are excellent revision pieces, bringing to mind the band’s exceptional debut. But much of Flowers is decidedly unlike much of anything Joan of Arc’s ever tried before. This is both a blessing and a curse: while any change from that tired normality is appreciated, it’s disappointing that so much of this is mediocre, that so much of this imitative, that so much of this is overblown, and etc. In that sense, Flowers is no different than the past eight or so middle-of-the-road albums the band’s released: it’s still mostly sucks. At least we only have to wait another year to listen to the band’s next half-hearted attempt.
It's hard to assess artists that release everything. I mean, the concept has its merits, you get access to all their music and get to pick what you listen to, but you loose the idea of the album and the coherance [ahem, Merzbow]. I'll still check this out, but sounds like I'll be unimpressed.
What's wrong with releasing everything though? I mean, I'd rather listen to a band with a back-catalogue of 200 tracks that are mixed, rather than a band that has two a back-catalogue of 24 tracks that are all good. It's more interesting.