Insignificance, Jim O'Rourke's third solo album for Drag City, reaffirms that he is not only a fine composer, arranger, and producer, but a gifted, creative songwriter as well. As with Eureka and the Halfway to a Threeway EP, O'Rourke continues to find as many possibilities in singing and songwriting as he does experimenting with pure sound. However, this time O'Rourke adds a few twists to the formula he pioneered on those two efforts.
He sings on each of Insignificance's tracks, his frail voice providing a sharp contrast to the lush arrangements and sardonic lyrics of songs like the wryly titled opener, "All Downhill From Here," where he observes, "If I seem to you just a little bit remote/You'd feel better if you call me a misanthrope/Or whatever floats your boat/But as for me, I'd rather sink my own."
On songs like "Get a Room" and the finale, "Life Goes Off," which, like "Halfway to a Threeway," are twisted yet poignant odes to the strange things we will do for intimacy, Insignificance recalls the sweet sonics and sour sentiments of O'Rourke's work with Smog. Beautifully arranged pop epics like the title track are clearly descended from Eureka's breezy brilliance, but the surprisingly insistent, crunchy rock guitars on the excellent "Therefore I Am" and "Memory Lame" add an extra bite and urgency that O'Rourke's pop-oriented work has lacked previously. Though each of the album's tracks is meticulously crafted, none of them feel overworked.
That's probably because Insignificance was recorded in just under a month; it has the warm, immediate feel of an album that only took as long as necessary to make. Fans of O'Rourke's more avant-garde material may dismiss the album as too mainstream, but its endlessly listenable songs are just as significant as any of his more experimental work.