Review Summary: The art of denial.
I find myself in a difficult place when trying to understand what exactly Jim O’Rourke strives for in his albums. His 1999 effort (the only one I listened beforehand) called ‘Eureka’ is a mix of genres. How can I blow your mind? He adds jazzy atmosphere, pop and folk sensibilities, light electronic undertones, piano, flute and even a hint of ambient for good measure. The one constant is by far his magnificent voice. Jim O’Rourke could be a severely underrated vocalist. His voice just exudes beauty, even when it seems he isn’t trying. O’Rourke’s 2001 entry called ‘Insignificance’ has his unique cover plastered as before. This time dressed up in drag holding his toy duck. An act of humiliation it would seem like the man on the cover is insignificant, Jim O’Rourke.
Soft and melancholy O’Rourke’s voice included with a surplus of instruments always has you concentrated on his voice through his previous albums. Let’s be serious for a second. I don’t really see anyone thinking ‘Insignificance’ would of entered with a classic rockin’ song with a sly guitar that only gets better as the song goes on. O’Rourke’s vocals still transfix as usual and this track feels like he’s part of a band, instead of you know being a solo artist. “All Downhill From Here” exhibits perfect passages for the vacant areas without O’Rourke’s vocals. The drums beat on with the guitar that sounds something you would have heard in the 70’s, it’s fantastic and a great opener; even a jam session enters the end. O’Rourke catches us by surprise, but why should they even surprise us considering he shifts between many different styles.
The piano and acoustic-electro infused guitar that drives ‘Insignificance’ builds upon itself through the first minute until O’Rourke enters.
“I’m still waiting
For a sign
How it’s all gonna end
At a time
When it seems like
It had failed me
Like a friend
Who needs you”
The music sets a down tempo feel that is most definitely used to focus on O’Rourke’s lyrics. Oddly enough, the piano keeps the pace, but not at a depressing vibe. Instead it feels jumpy and a bit fun…It works really well, even with lyrics that would point to something more ill induced. 2 tracks in and it seems O’Rourke is hitting his stride already. Why? Well it seems the first song seemed lively and energetic, but ‘Insignificance’ has a depressing vibe that makes O’Rourke a bit vulnerable.
Once again we are introduced to a high energy, upbeat song that is driven by a repeating guitar and energetic drums. It seems O’Rourke has taken some of influences from Sonic Youth and incorporated it in this album. Not to the extent where it would feel it was that type of album, but you have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a whole different animal. “Therefore, I Am” is just like the type of track O’Rourke uses to negate the previous.
“As you can see, I’m a happy guy
Don’t need nothin’ to get me down
’Cause I’ll always have you
We are, are on a sinking ship
But I’d like to stay on board
And shoot the cannons at you”
A self-sabotaging act you would say. At this point we can all believe O’Rourke’s tactics would seem schizophrenic. Yet, if you look at it every 2 tracks includes a strict pattern, denial and loneliness. This pattern keeps moving forward. Just look at the track titles themselves: “Insignificance”, “Memory Lame”, “Get A Room”. This album seems a bit more consistent since it does keep a concept intact compared to his other great effort ‘Eureka’. ‘Insignificance’ eclipses it a bit since the form of writing and atmosphere is excellent. The exceptional voice of O’Rourke’s is the driving force; it feels as if he’s a bit lonesome throughout every track, even when trying to hide it. This album gets better with every listen. The simple approach pays amazing dividends. He cuts off the great amount of instruments in ‘Eureka’ and takes a conventional path in ‘Insignificance’ that just feels right.
From “Good Times”:
“I’d like to raise the Titanic here
Take a walk, through its molding streets
And feel right at home, ’cause the dead don’t talk”