Tim Kinsella: Crucifix Swastika

Kevin Jagernauth

The most shocking thing about Tim Kinsella's moronically titled new release is how tame and inconsequential it really is.

Tim Kinsella

Crucifix Swastika

Label: Record Label
US Release Date: 2005-04-19
UK Release Date: 2005-04-18
Amazon affiliate

There are few personalities in indie rock that divide audiences so decisively as that of Tim Kinsella. He first cut his teeth with emo pioneers Cap'n Jazz, where his willfully off-key caterwauling somehow made the group's energized power pop all the more engaging. Since the dissolution of Cap'n Jazz, Kinsella has been involved in a grocery list length of projects including Sky Corvair, Everyoned, Owls and Friend/Enemy. But the most prominent and prolific project, as well as the source of message board threads equally praising and deriding Kinsella, has been Joan of Arc.

With a constantly rotating roster Joan of Arc has released eight full-length albums (with two more in the works) and a fistful of EPs and singles. For the most part, Joan of Arc's output has been highly ambitious (though pretentious could be thrown around with equal weight), but lacking in the outrageous, confrontational content that marks Tim Kinsella's solo output. His first solo foray He Sang His Didn't He Danced His Did infamously conjured (among other things) Kinsella squatting over a mirror with two fingers up his ass. His second and now out of print release Demands Feminist Critique had among its track listing "My Dick Is Small And I Smell Like Shit". It's not a surprise that between Joan Of Arc's art posturing and Kinsella's gutter level ramblings that he has earned his fair share of critics.

With Crucifix Swastika, it would seem that Kinsella without his Joan Of Arc cohorts is once again ready to wallow in the scatalogical and controversial. However, the biggest surprise upon spinning this six-track (barely 15-minute) EP is how tame it all is, both musically and lyrically. Aside from the downright stupid title, which not being referenced in the actual music reeks of a blatant attempt at courting controversy, Crucifix Swastika is an airy, almost whimsical dish of acoustic pop that remarkably fails to leave any discernable impression.

Reminiscent of Joan Of Arc's more accessible and poppier early work, but nowhere near as inventive, Crucifix Swastika is a tepid combination of light acoustic guitar work and Kinsella's reined in vocals. There is no glass-shattering screeching or off-center wailing here, just Kinsella's lightly sung stream of consciousness lyrics. I would be encouraged to give this release a higher rating if the disc's highlights didn't feel so underdeveloped and dashed off. "Fondu Or Don't" has Kinsella copping guitar moves from Nick Drake, with some nicely overdubbed vocals. But the song peters out well before hitting the two-minute mark. "Member Sexy Branes" suffers a similar fate, with Kinsella's dexterous guitar playing not given the room to fully develop. Again, with the song barely clocking in at two minutes, the listener wonders of what could have been if the track had ample time to expand and grow. Crucifix Swastika closes with a recording of a call-in radio show in which a caller goes on a nonsensical rant about how the "cool kids" are all converting to Islam. Whether the inclusion of this sample is supposed to ironic or pointed doesn't so much go over my head as completely evaporate into nothingness. Kinsella doesn't lay any immediately tangible groundwork or context for this sample, and frankly, there isn't much here to indicate that such an investment in time would even be rewarding.

Personally, I look forward to whatever Tim Kinsella does next, because there are times that Kinsella manages to wrangle his ambitions and pretentiousness into making a point. Even when he doesn't, and especially with the Joan of Arc, there is a fascinating musical tapestry that in itself is worth exploring. However, when you strip the canvas away, as evidenced on Crucifix Swastika Kinsella isn't so much unbearable as simply lost. Kinsella is an intelligent man with boundless energy as evidenced by his multitude of endeavors, but if he would reign in his scattershot thoughts into singular, cohesive and logical statements, his records would gain a potency that thus far his back catalogue suffers a lack of.


Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock each did their stint as a lonely Mexican cowboy, it seems. These and other things you didn't know about A Charlie Brown Christmas.

How Would You Like to Be the Director of Our Christmas Play?

It's really a beautiful little movie and has affected my life in numerous ways. For years, especially when we were poor, we always tried to find the littlest saddest Christmas tree possible. In fact, my son Eli has a Christmas tree set up right now that is just one single branch propped up in a juice bottle. And just a couple weeks ago we were at a wedding, everyone was dancing, and me and my wife Amy and my friend Garth started dancing like the Peanuts characters do in the Christmas special. -- Comic artist James Kochalka.

Bill Melendez answers questions with the sort of vigor that men a third his age invest thousands in herbal supplements to achieve. He punctuates his speech with belly chuckles and comic strip taglines like "Oh, boy!" and "I tell 'ya!" With the reckless abandon that Melendez tosses out words like pleasure, it's clear that 41 years after its premiere, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains one of his favorite topics of conversation. "It changed my life," he states simply, "being involved with this silly little project."

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.