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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    CD Review: Make Believe

    Last year, Make Believe drummer Nate Kinsella was escorted off stage in handcuffs for exposing himself to a crowd in a church basement during a show in the Bible Belt. As the clock counted down to his two-month jail sentence in Oklahoma, Make Believe buckled down and produced a mind-blowing follow up to 2005’s ‘Shock of Being.’

    A disclaimer: Make Believe is one of the best bands out today, but their music is not for everyone. At first listen, it sounds like existential poetry yelped over cartoony circus themes. But it’s far from nonsensical. It’s interesting and intense and overwhelmingly intelligent. You might not be able to enjoy it like you enjoy conventional music – you will not sing along. The songs demand more attention than that. After experiencing Make Believe, though, you will be sure that you’ve heard something revolutionary, or at least genuinely unique.

    Look at me. I’ve just succumbed to the same elitist indie snobbery that lead singer Tim Kinsella has been accused of inspiring for years. There’s no other way to say it though: love it or hate it, the virtue of this music is its brainyness. It’s like punk rock done by Picasso.

    Tim Kinsella has appeared in a thousand different forms across the Chicago music scene, it seems. Joan of Arc, by far the weirdest of his bands, has released eight albums over the years, each one labeled ‘pretentious’ by critics. Cap’n Jazz was said to have had a hand in founding the emo movement in the nineties. Even then, his music stood out as abstract and weird in a genre known for its simple honesty. Make Believe is culmination of a long career of musical experimentation and boundary-pushing.

    ‘Of Course’ is like a toned-down ‘Shock of Being’ in some ways. The time signatures aren’t quite as varied. Experiments in atonality still permeate the songs, but it’s usually balanced by some basic melodic structure. The song structures themselves are slightly less irregular. It’s a refreshing step toward something resembling normalcy, while maintaining the same weirdness that makes Make Believe great.

    You can hear the amount of work and thought that went into every song – it makes the listening experience extremely satisfying, somehow. The complexity and orchestration of the songs is striking. Some songs feature Nate Kinsella (Tim’s cousin) playing drums and Wurlitzer organ at the same time, like a stunt.

    Kinsella’s lyrics, as usual, are brilliant. They’re cerebral and unbelievably bizarre, but somehow always clever. In tracks like ‘Anything/Selling That Thing,’ the album closer, they’re almost touching.

    Other standout tracks include the opener, ‘A Song About Camping.’ It’s like a pop song gone wrong – the scratchy, atonal guitar noise compliments the relatively melodic vocal part and the bouncy groove. ‘Pat Tillman, Emmitt Till’ is one of Make Believe’s best song’s yet. It’s a poetic, abstract socio-political commentary sung over meandering musical parts. Gloriously brainy.

    The album’s length is disappointing. Two of the ten tracks aren’t even ‘real’ – just some weird studio noise and instrumental ambling. Maybe they ran out of time when Nate was sent up the river.

    I’ve done my best to explain the latest release of an inexplicable band. Maybe you’ll listen to ‘Of Course’ and you just won’t get it. Maybe you’ll get it, and you just won’t like it. Maybe you’ll call it annoying and pretentious. But maybe, like me, you’ll see something beautiful in all the weirdness and chaos. Maybe you’ll recognize that in some strange way, this band has reinvented its own brand of punk rock.

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