March 25, 2013
Owls (not to be mistaken with Owl, from LA) was first formed during 2001 in Chicago out of a former project named Cap'n Jazz. Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Zurick promptly released one album and broke up after a year to pursue other music. They only just now reformed, coinciding with the return of Zurick to Chicago, to capitalize on the incredibly deep and abiding love people had for Owls, after their self-titled debut in 2001. Apparently unsatisfied with the high level of thought involved in releasing a self-titled album, they decided to name this attempt Two.
Don't bother remembering any of this, unless you're boning up for a trivia night, because this album isn't going to be remembered. While the somewhat breathless press release goes to GREAT LENGTHS to convey just how many artistic disputes and the great amount drama (18 months! CANCELLED PRACTICES! COLLABORATING CIVILLY... wait) the band somehow overcame in the process of writing and recording Two, the actual delivered product is lacking emotional core and completely fails to deliver anything memorable (except the remarkably under-delivered and painfully compressed line "Oh No, Don't smash the bag of pretzels". Because that is funny). Don't expect this reunion to last long -- reading between the lines of the album announcement, it's pretty clear these guys can't stand each other.
Okay, so now we're reviewing Two, from Owls. Their second album in thirteen years, this is going to be a great band for hipsters. Perfectly obscure, with entirely forgettable music and incomprehensible lyrics guarantees that nobody else will ever have heard of them in a year's time. There are promising elements here -- some good hooks, some interesting melodies, and even the occasional meaningful, funny, or interesting lyric. Unfortunately, Owls never manages to combine those at any point -- if the lyrics are interesting, the song will have wandered off into a bland musical prairie. By the time the music finds itself again, the lyrics are back to pretzels.
The album starts off with promise, which is almost immediately taken out back of the shed and shot. An interesting intro proves to simply be the entirety of the track. The cover pretty much establishes the trend of the rest of the album -- tiny, tasty bits that are left uncooked.
Owls sound will be familiar to anybody who listened to alternative/emo/whatthehellever from the early-mid 90s to the early-mid 2000s. Likely because their other album came out right around then. These tracks could be cleaned up and sit comfortably next to the forgettable tracks on a Stroke 9 album, or the Urge, or any number of other bands of the day.
Lyrically, Two doesn't have much consistency. Singer Kinsella (not to be confused with his brother, Not Singer Kinsella) (aka Tim) often seems unaware of the song he's singing along to, happily smashing together syllables and mangling pace to "fit" long phrases to the music. This is perhaps most apparent on "Oh No, Don't...", which also illustrates Kisella's unwillingness to convey emotion in his singing. The flat delivery saps any emotional impact the music and lyrics would otherwise demand.
The listening experience is vastly improved by imaginging that this is in fact Derek Zoolander's Band for Kids Who Don't Music Good and Want to do Other Stuff Good Too. At least that way the pointless and grasping lyrics acquire a certain poignancy. Owls urgently wants you to feel the noise, but the images evoked throughout Two are laughably pointless and uninspired. Kinsella's flat delivery and seeming need to cram in extra syllables squeezes out what little emotion may have been found, leaving nothing behind but a mental image of Blue Steel... or perhaps MAGNUM.