For 25 years, Tim Kinsella has led his band Joan of Arc through a multitude of changes: members have come and gone, and the group’s sound has evolved and (occasionally) purposely devolved. Now, with the release of Tim Melina Theo Bobby, Kinsella is bringing the project to an end. Named for the musicians who comprise the final Joan of Arc lineup, Tim Melina Theo Bobby is a fitting eulogy for the band that also serves as an entry point into their sprawling discography. The album starts with the electronic-laced, indie-leaning emo that typified Joan of Arc in the mid-90s (“Destiny Revision”), but as the album progresses it builds toward the avant-garde, experimental pieces (“Rising Horizon”) that the band have favored over the past decade.
Ultimately, Tim Melina Theo Bobby is neither a somber elegy nor a joyous celebration. Instead it grapples with the amorphousness intrinsic to Joan of Arc. On album closer “Upside Down Bottomless Pit,” Kinsella lays out the band’s long-standing views on art: “There’s no bleachers / There’s no sidelines / There’s no out of bounds.” For more than two decades, Joan of Arc have been a Chicago institution dedicated to limitless creative expanses and an unyielding drive for artistic fulfillment. Though they never designated anything out of bounds, they apparently had a timer counting down in the background all along. Joan of Arc aren’t a casualty of 2020 in the same way as the lives lost and businesses closed as a result of the pandemic, but their breakup feels like part of that larger moment regardless—we’re seeing the fabric of Chicago change before our eyes. Over the course of their career, Joan of Arc have come to represent the genre-agnostic indie-rock culture of a bygone era, making them the ending of their specific time and place. Their work will live on, even when the Chicago that fostered them and that they grew to embody is long gone. v