Review Summary: Overall, I really enjoyed this album, although I'd recommend "How Memory Works" over it, which is their easiest album to listen to and probably a good first timer. This album definetly tests the audience's patience, and I recommend that you listen to it
Joan of Arc.. if you ask anyone that actually knows who they are, you're most likely to get 2 responses:
1. "Musically talented geniuses..."
2. "Why did I ever try to listen to them""
Let's face it, Tim Kinsella enjoys to stretch the patience of his listeners. As for their debut album, "A Portable Model Of" is has a variety of electronic studio blips and sounds that are used in the background of most of the songs. Actually, the album is mostly instrumental, with a few exceptions added to the list.
As with many fine liquors, Joan of Arc can be considered an acquired taste. The album opens up with the track "I Love A Woman (Who Loves Me) (not to get mixed with the final track.) The opening track is very much a mellow acoustic affair, with different studio tricks to keep it interesting. Tim ends the song "To smart to be a pop star, not smart enough not to be one." Tim Kinsella makes it obvious he hasn't distanced himself from the oblique and confusing lyrics that made him famous in "Cap'n Jazz." The second track, "The Hands" can be considered the best song on the album, while it's easier to listen to than the other tracks, it keeps a heavy and interesting pace with an excellent drum beat and Tim's cracking vocals.
Another excellent track happens to be the fourth song of the album entitled "Let Wrestle." Tim seems to enjoy keeping his lyrics minor, as the guitar and chimes in the background give the message to you more than the actual words do. This happens to be my personal favorite, which paints a picture of a boy who enjoys just spending time with a girl and having fun with her rather than the lustful part of a relationship.
While the album contains actual songs, there are numerous "test" tracks as I'll call it that are featured every 2 or 3 songs. Romulans!Romulans! for example just plays what it seems to be old radio broadcasts and different assortments of studio trickery.
Another example would be the similar tracks "In Pamplona" and "In Pompeii," both proudly using the studio as an actual instrument. The songs range from 1-2 minutes, containing different bass lines as it sounds, and other clicks and blips that exist throughout the tracks. While some may not enjoy these tracks and find them boring, I feel as if they are put there to make a more "album" feel rather than an array of different songs.
"Count To A Thousand" is another instrumental, which is a 7 or 8 minute calm guitar affair with again different sounds of feedback and studio balance to paint a wider scenario. I find this song to be one of the worst on the album, as it gets boring after listening to it for the first 5 minutes.
Other standout tracks are "Post-Coitus Rock," another pop-rock sounding song to continue the similar genre throughout the album. Very interesting guitar playing, and another one of my favorites.
"How Wheeling Feels" is another great track similar to "Post-Coitus Rock" and "The Hands".. with added sounds to layer the track, such as a ringing phone throughout the song.
The album ends with 3 songs that can mostly all be considered instrumentals with the exception of a few words. "Caliban" is an acoustic instrumental which I enjoyed a lot more than "Count To A Thousand". "I Was Born" is a great song, however is too short for the album and sometimes I wish they had done more with it.
The album finally finishes with (I Love A Woman) Who Loves Me, which continues the same pace and chord structure as the opening track, finally ending the album with a buzzing collection of noises and different sounds.