Jim O'Rourke - Insignificance LP

(Drag City, 2001)


Insignificance is probably the most accessible album Jim O’Rourke has ever made. By 2001 the Chicago native had released two conventional (compared to the more outre work he has consistently cranked out over the years on various other labels) albums with Drag City Records: 1997’s Bad Timing, an homage of sorts to American fingerstyle guitar master John Fahey, and 1999’s Eureka, a stylistic melange of orchestral pieces, fingerpicking, and experimental folk rock. Insignificance is probably the closest thing O’Rourke has ever made to a “rock” album.

For the majority of side one the guitars are loud and the drums rollick and boom, even as O’Rourke's vocals seem shy and removed, he’s spitting out vitriol and self-loathing at a clip that would be off-putting if the music weren’t so well arranged and “nice” sounding. I suppose you can say things like, “looking at you/reminds me of looking at the sun/and how the blind are so damn lucky/those holes on your face could be used better ways” if you say it quietly.

As with any Jim O’Rourke release, the real magic is in the production. He has produced seminal albums for Smog, Superchunk, Joanna Newsom, Stereolab, and Beth Orton - all to great acclaim. He lends the same deft touch to his own work, leaving little sonic nuggets in every nook and cranny that reward repeat listening. For someone who is not familiar with the world of Jim O’Rourke Insignificance is probably the best entry point.