Jim O'Rourke: Insignificance

Jim O'Rourke: Insignificance

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Jim O'Rourke

Album: Insignificance
Label: Drag City
-

Jim O'Rourke

Album: Insignificance
Label: Drag City

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Jim O'Rourke's backward journey from deconstructed noise to straightforward songcraft has left him in the worst kind of bind. When Eureka, his last album, was largely misinterpreted as a series of semiotic in-jokes and winking genre exercises, it was clear that any new Jim O'Rourke record would have a tough time transcending its role as "a new Jim O'Rourke record," a quote-worthy distinction now bursting with preconceived notions. Part of that plays into his hand as an earnest ironist, but, mercifully, he's always kept his love of semantic parlor games and his music relatively separate. That changes a bit on Insignificance, a playfully dark self-portrait that depicts O'Rourke running away from himself. Musically, he betrays his reputation by stripping away Eureka's gorgeous orchestration in favor of gnarled '70s-rock guitar hooks and plaintive acoustic finger-picking, with only a few stray horn lines and a Tusk-celebrating drum-phase outro to suggest the production hand he's waved over countless indie-rock albums. O'Rourke pulls a few giddily subversive tricks—overripe David Crosby-like harmonizing on "Memory Lame," late-era Beach Boys "oohs" on "Therefore, I Am"—but saves most of his conceits for his lyrics, which are dark and spiteful to black-comedic extremes. A line from "Memory Lame" sums up his worldview perfectly: "Listening to you reminds me of how the deaf are so damn lucky." Every song on Insignificance is ferociously misanthropic, with O'Rourke dreaming of his companion as an "empty plate that gets bused away" on "Good Times," or needling two poisoned lovers doomed to die in their sleep on "Get A Room." The songs wouldn't work if they weren't as creepy as they are funny, and with all the same sentiments doubling as direct lines to his prickly audience, Insignificance's ingeniously subtle songwriting project is one of O'Rourke's most affecting yet.

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