Jim O’Rourke – Eureka


Jim O’RourkeEureka Drag City dc162cd (1999)

With Eureka Jim O’Rourke started to look like one of the most significant pop/rock artists of his time.  While some of the American Primitivisms of his previous album Bad Timing are still present here, O’Rourke had now became noticeably more eclectic.  You can trace influences of Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Burt Bacharach, Robert Wyatt beyond those of John Fahey.  O’Rourke employs a kind of allegorical approach here.  Whether you adopt the classical Greek formulation (something that “speaks otherwise”) or the more modern one formulated by Walter Benjamin (“Allegories are, in the realm of thought, what ruins are in the realm of things.”), there are fragments of (recent, popular) musical history employed in a way that takes on other meaning.  The fragments he appropriates are used reverentially — you can tell O’Rourke deeply appreciates it all — though at the same time there is a tacit acceptance that it all is of the past and can’t be reproduced in its original context or with its original meaning.

I really loved this when it came out, and it was probably the first O’Rourke solo album I remember hearing.  If looking back this seems less than it did at first it’s only because O’Rourke outdid himself on Halfway to a Threeway and Insignificance in the coming years.  And perhaps also the magnificence of the first six tracks here greatly outstrip the rather weak last two.  Still, I have to say something like Eureka, and contemporaneous efforts like his contribution to Illuminati, seemed a big influence on the mild resurgence of orchestrated pop that led to things like Joanna Newsom‘s Ys a few years down the line.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see if he ever releases an album titled “Castaway” to continue the trend of naming stuff after Nicolas Roeg movies — Bad Timing, Eureka, Insignificance