Here’s one for the history books. The very thought of a new Owls record 18 months ago would’ve crossed minds absolutely nowhere, but here we have ‘Two’ - the second record by the band in twelve years. Having disbanded back in 2002, the now classic line-up (Tim Kinsella, his brother Mike, guitarist Victor Villareal and bassist Sam Zurick) have finally reunited, producing this album just as the “emo revival” conveniently seems to reach its highest achievements yet.
Those familiar with the band members’ other projects will know just why this one has the potential to be extra special, though. While they’re all known collectively for their work as Cap’n Jazz, Villareal and Zurick are also known for their output as Ghosts and Vodka. On the other hand, Mike has often outshined his brother’s Joan of Arc project with his stellar solo effort as Owen and as the frontman of American Football. In other words, these guys are talented, and a new record by them collectively is astronomically exciting.
It’s a shame then that while ‘Two’ is without a doubt a good album, it is definitely the sound of a band trying to fit back into clothes it has outgrown. The chemistry between them is still there, but this time it’s bubbling rather than fizzling. Take ‘I’m Surprised…’ for example: Tim’s signature, clean-cut drawl dribbles neatly over Villareal’s razor-sharp guitar work, and the hook is just subtle enough to be left rolling around in the back of heads. It’s exactly what everyone expected of this record, and for the most part, it’s enough. It’s just a shame though, that for a bunch of guys renowned for pushing the boundaries, there’s barely a riot incited here.
Tracks like ‘I’m Surprised…’ and ‘Ancient Stars Seed…’ are arguably more than worth the reunion, sounding exactly like the kind of songs Tim would’ve yelled at the top of his lungs back in Cap’n Jazz’s heyday. Songs such as ‘I’ll Never Be…’ though have Joan of Arc’s polarising qualities seeping through though, and newcomers may find it hard to stick through the more self-indulgent parts (see ‘Why Oh Why…’ and ‘The Lion…’, too).
Ultimately, this is the sound of a group looking back at what they’ve achieved individually in order to get that chemistry churning again. At times, it can feel like a middle aged person desperately trying to pull on the disgustingly crusty t-shirt of the band they loved as a teenager. On the other hand, it’s just bloody fantastic to have these ridiculously talented musicians back together. Consider the spark officially reignited, and let’s hope the next effort isn’t another twelve years down the line.