How Memory Works, Joan of Arc's second album, displays perhaps the most creative use of electronics and composition within a rock framework since Analogue's stunning 1996 opus AAD. Like AAD, How Memory Works is woven together by bits of analog synth noise and short songs that never overstay their welcome. The band makes an emotional impact with varying speed. The faster songs bristle with a romantic, smile-inducing urgency, especially "This Life Cumulative," with its insistent beat, repeated major-key riffs, and quizzical lyrics. Tim Kinsella's vocals in "A Name" ebb and flow with stop-start rhythms, morphing into an awesome twin-guitar duel midsong. In the new wave-meets-prog "God Bless America," his brittle intonations crack under the strain of the song's clenched-fist chorus. Gastr del Sol is a logical comparison for plaintive tracks such as "To've Had Two Of," with its acoustic guitar-and-vocal intro and gradual introduction of a cello and human voices. And while Kinsella's nonsensical lyrics and unpredictable pitch at times detract from the music's effectiveness, his performance on album closer "A Party Able Model Of" may unpredictably find the listener with moist eyes.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Cohen