As the reasonably dependable member of the fourth estate I take myself for--shit, Dubya sucks--I can see the merit in two recent descriptions of the new Chicago band Owls. One, from the band's Delaware-based record label, Jade Tree Records, calls the band its town's "newest art-funk post-rock groove outfit." Because it says so much more than it actually says, I like this one best: "Art-funk post-rock groove outfit" is a hell of a weight with which to saddle a band, and "newest" implies that to start up this type of group in Chicago is old hat, which is ridiculous because it's pretty much on the money. Still, the other description's rich--it's from an Idaho-based Amazon.com customer named "Matter," who calls the band's new self-titled debut "musical anarchy dosed in existential motion," which is a far, far more colorful assessment of a piece of music than any I've ever mustered, and that counts when I'm being paid.
Now, I don't buy either wholesale, since Jade Tree wants to sell records and there's a distinct possibility Matter could be Tim Kinsella, Owls' singer, dispatching from his mom's AOL account. But I do think the two evaluations do a great job of demonstrating where Owls fit into their particular milieu, one equally populated by overeager emo kids who dig the Kinsella family brand (Tim and his drummer brother Mike have played in scene linchpins Cap'n Jazz and Joan of Arc) and uptight Chicago aesthetes in search of the perfect 7/8 swing. That's essentially how Owls' music breaks down, mapping as it does the noise these guys have made since high school--at start a precocious babble full of weirdly tuned guitars and cracking voices and waking-up stories about sunset ice cream waterfalls and at finish a well-considered jumble of weirdly tuned guitars and cracking voices and bedtime stories about dicks and pussies.
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Owls is full of those, and the apprehensive regret Kinsella seems to always bury deep inside his music. What's exciting is that the songs this time around--awkward, clumsy things definitely more post than punk, full of unexpected grace, power and eighth notes--mirror that stuff perfectly, like looking at five guys in their middle 20s looking at themselves, being honest. Isn't that the quintessence of existential art-funk motion?