Jim O’Rourke’s musical career has been an interesting one to follow. From his days partnering with David Grubbs in Gastr del Sol to his highly experimental and minimalist works like Happy Days and Disengage, O’Rourke has shown himself to be a multi-talented musician. After Bad Timing came out, which echoes John Fahey—rumors began circulating that O’Rourke was going to release a pop album. And that’s why you can still find his pop albums in the experimental section of your local record store. Eureka was released on March 2, 1999.
Eureka opens up with Prelude to 100 or 220/Women Of The World which repeats the phrase “Women of the world, take over cause if you don’t the world will come to an end” with a backdrop of slowly powertooled guitar, and choruses from the speakers left and right, tinny cornets punctuating the rhythm, until it keeps growing, until one realizes.. is he serious? He has to be serious. But it’s ironic, how can he be serious? But he is serious.
Jim O’Rourke is often chided because of his apparent lack of compassion for the human race. It just turns out, in my evaluation that he is sick of the fake layers of personal communication that pollute the brainwaves and stop personal growth. He sings in Ghostship in a Storm:
Nothing makes me want to disappear
As when someone opens their mouth….
I’m not there like a ghostship in a storm.
Movie on the Way Down slowly transfers the listener to a self-examination.
There’s that word again… pride
Do you pride yourself on being alive?
Do you feel pride when you’re alone?
Does the mirror say, good day today?
Does your family make you feel pride?
Do their pictures keep you warm?
Is your smile so easily worn? Worn away.
Do you feel proud?
From here, the album twists to Through the Night Softly which builds into a somewhat-similar to the Saturday Night Live band segment, tenor saxophone waxing poetic over oohs and ahhs of the world and a piano slowly punctuating a sentence that never starts. It’s all for real, not just being covered up or created for its own aspect. Jim O’Rourke is an artist who truly understands postmodernity, and not the same way the majority of those perceiving it define it. He transcends the concept into being.
Please Patronize our Sponsors is a piano and flute piece with some of the best subtle jazz drumming I’ve heard. The music is a drip from a tongue, and further deepens the instrumental interludes we’ve been in for awhile. Mid-way through the song there is this moment of rapt attention, with strings. It feels like a high school graduation or gala, where all your friends are watching you, laughing, drinking and having a good time. There are moments and places where this all makes sense. Where it all clicks together, and we’ve only got a few moments to grab onto it. And if I can sneak a sentence in here and there, stabbing like a rubber knife, then I’ve done my part.
Jim O’Rourke next examines Burt Bacharach’s Something Big. “Like a grain of sand that wants to be a rolling stone. I want to be the man I’m not and other things I really haven’t got and that’s a lot.” The cover placed in the middle of the album here, fully decorated with female background vocals, in some ways points towards the real meat of the first song. This is the only appearance of a female on the album, and as I will investigate in his next major album, Insignificance O’Rourke has many thoughts about women worth investigating. But the thing with O’Rourke, is you never know whether these are his thoughts, or just thoughts he is having. I understand that very well. I rarely can tell the difference in my own judgments.
Eureka is my favorite song on the album. It comes in quiet, with many progressive sounds, deeply edited by a computer, but still organic. Real. The lyrics are really what get me:
Hello, hello can you hear me?
Are your skies clear and sunny down there?
Even in this rain, a breath reaches me here.
Here, on this phone.
A quarter, a dayroom for me.
And as things, stay the same I’m quickly running out of change.
You’re thinking on your feet
While you’re sitting there on your ass
Fresh cream in your sugar
No stains of sweat on your back
There’s no need
There’s an employee
To make up for all of your slack
A seed don’t make a tree
Without a servant that waters the grass.
From here we slowly move through synths until the final piece, a short song in the tradition of Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman:
I’m going to a place where the women have nothing on
But the radio, turned up to ten
Too loud for me to think
I’m hoping if I blink
I don’t wake up here….
Dah! Dahdhah! Dah-da-dah! Dah-da-dah! Dah-da-da-duh-dah!
One of life’s greatest sins is natural when it begins
Goodbye mouth canyon
You weren’t very much to see
But I only came to leave…
The cover to the album depicts a naked, chubby Japanese man, shoving a stuffed rabbit onto his crotch, painted in colorful and peaceful hues. Inside the album there is a picture of such beauty I hang it above my kitchen sink. A beautiful day, with green grass and a blue sky. In the sky is Bruce Lee’s face and arm, in a hand-chop motion, looking serious. On the ground, a naked short-legged man stands, his butt to the artist’s lens. Nun-chucks lay on the ground by his feet, and a bicycle overturned in front of him. He’s in the middle of a field, looking up to Bruce Lee. This defines the album to me. The artist of the paintings is Mimiyo Tomozawa.
I highly recommend this. It is among the very best albums I’ve heard.