Band: Jim O’Rourke
Album: Insignificance
Best song: “Memory Lame” and “Therefore, I Am” are awesome. “All Downhill From Here” is very good.
Worst song: The final track, “Life Goes Off” is not great.

I didn’t drink in college, so I had a slightly different college experience than a lot of people. Which is to say that my 20th birthday — not one of import like the 21st or 18th, certainly, but a new decade and all — was less raucous than most others’. Two friends and I ate hamburgers at a local landmark. Age 20 is when I got into the University of Missouri Journalism School, unknowingly finalizing my career path for, at least, the next ten years. I stopped eating red meat at age 20, simply for health reasons. I was elected to be program director at my college’s radio station that year. I lived alone — in a single in the dorm, so, not really alone — for the first time that year.

Age 20 is also, of course, the last time I pooped my pants.

Every bit of growing up, to me, is about the definition of “maturity.” The fact that I pooped pants at 20 — and still gleefully tell the story — means I’ve still not grown up, ten years later. It’s possible that I’m simply an American male and American males find defecation hilarious.

But, I’m also outstandingly old in the sense that I never really got into the play video games/drink until you get sick hedonism that is sort of personified in a lot of my generation.

It’s well-put in Kay S. Hymowitz’ “Child-Man in the Promised Land” that ran in City Journal in 2008. The author posits that young men are mostly stuck in a perpetual adolescence, largely focusing on popular cultural depictions of such a life (Tucker Max, rock stars, video games, etc.).

(The Manhattan Institute published City Journal and the Manhattan Institute is bullshit. But, the piece is absolutely worth a read.)
I reference that piece largely because it follows that so many of the men around my age — almost all, in fact — are stuck in this perpetual adolescence. I don’t think I know more than two male homeowners my age and one of them also skateboards in his free time. He’s 36.

Marriage is a common delineator of maturity and I’m at the age wherein marriage is common. Many of my male friends are, indeed, married. But, I can think of at least two of them who would most certainly count video games as a major part of their lives. Like, four hours a day major. This is, of course, hardly mature. Other male friends get drunk like a college student every week. Or some only eat fried food or fast food.

Let me explain that I’m not above any of this or around it; I am one of the least mature people in the world. I will rent forever — I am terrible with money –, I have no serious intentions of ever getting married or having children, I don’t have concrete long-term goals of career advancement and I’ve not been in a serious romantic relationship in ages. In essence, I don’t necessarily have a prospect of growing up — or, at least, growing up in a concrete way — anytime soon.

And, man, I still love a good fart joke.

A lot of popular culture feeds this perpetual adolescence. The quasi-recent resurgence of comic book movies has elevated half-ass philosophy into the forefront of the genre, but nevertheless, the Green Lantern, Thor, Spiderman and the like are still, supposed, grown men running around in their pajamas, driving toward violent vengeance.

This, of course, is what children do.

Popular musicians are, all too often, the bridge of that. Like petulant children, they never really get told “no,” even in thingslike concert riders; no request is too crazy, hence the insane 1982 “brown M&Ms” Van halen tour rider.

Emotionally, age brings some level of comfort in that maturity is simply experience. Fewer things get me overexcited, but I am still able to find passion in certain things. I’m open to compromise. I prefer to chat philosophy and arthouse films than movies about comic book heroes and I like my sports from an analytical standpoint. No, I’m not someone who devours the classics or only discusses politics — though, in DC, this is not unheard of. Indeed, I like poop jokes.

Jim O’Rourke’s sort works that angle, as well.

His records generally push genre boundaries, mixing from noise to accoustic to electrostuff. He names his records after Nicolas Roeg films (as this record is). He roves the scene in a way that had him collaborating with such eclectic artists as Sonic Youth (he was a member for years), Wilco and John McEntire.

On the other hand, he names his records such things as Halfway to a Threeway or adorns Insignificance with such liner art:

Yes. That’s an octopus sodomizing a bald man.

Some of the grand aspects of humor are based on this juxtaposition; history’s greatest comedy group would traffic in such humor throughout the tenure of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And maybe that’s what O’Rourke is. Maybe he’s just a brilliant humorist that traffics in music.

Even so, Insignificance has the wonderful trappings of early 2000s indie folk rock. It’s misanthropic, mid-fi and lyrical. O’Rourke isn’t singing about girls or love or whatever. It’s obtuse and accessible, from the easy guitar picking and existentialism in “Get a Room” or the stutter rhytymn of “Memory Lame” or the rock struts of “Therefore, I Am.”

I love this record, both for its juxtaposition and its sincerity.

This entry was posted in 30 Years, Jim O'Rourke. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

  • Recent Posts

  • The Bands

  • Shameless!

  • Last.Fm