Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jim O'Rourke- Bad Timing

A friend of mine was over a few nights ago. As per usual, he had his acoustic guitar in tow, absentmindedly fiddling with it as we talked and listened to music. He sometimes plays along with whatever I'm playing though usually it's too electric/weird to match well with an acoustic. Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing popped into my head as a great record to play along to, since it's an instrumental album centered around O'Rourke's deft playing, sometimes with ornamental orchestral backing. Hearing my friend find his way into the chords and melodies, adding his own style to the songs along the way, was one of the best moments of pure music I've ever experienced.

Like Eureka, Bad Timing is a rather unassuming piece of music, pleasing enough on first listen but not so mindblowingly good as to keep it on top of your list of stuff you want to listen to everyday for weeks. Every time I come back to these records, though, I'm filled with an increasing sense of wonder at the timelessness of the music, as well as the care and loving grace put into the playing.

Neither Eureka nor Bad Timing have any of the abrasive/experimental elements that mark most of O'Rourke's other work as solo artist, collaborator, improviser, bandmate, and producer, yet they are not obvious attempts to shill to the mainstream. Eureka has a very cinematic feel, some songs lingering in the same section for longer than is normal for a pop song, suggesting some unseen onscreen action is taking place while the soundtrack kills time until the scene changes. Bad Timing is more about sheer chops and lyrical playing, reminding me of Nick Drake's complex Pink Moon guitar style and the flamenco flourishes of Sun Kil Moon's Admiral Fell Promises.

The story goes that Jeff Tweedy was obsessed with this album, driving around Chicago while listening to it incessantly, leading him to invite O'Rourke to play with him at the Noise Pop festival in 2000. This in turn led to Wilco's experimental period from roughly mid 2000 to the release of Sky Blue Sky in 2007. Bad Timing might not be as important and influential to my life, or to the life of my friend, but it remains a unique and rich listening experience.

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