Published May 15, 2015Long and mostly associated with avant-garde musical experimentation, Jim O'Rourke hasn't released a rock-songs-with-lyrics-and-singing-based album since 2001, and his return to the form has yielded songs that are anything but simple. The well-respected multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer who originally hails from Chicago has spent most of this century living in Tokyo, working on music constantly but mostly staying out of the indie rock public eye.
With his primary collaborator/superhuman percussionist Glenn Kotche busy in Wilco and also an ocean away, O'Rourke wasn't sure how to bring the complex rhythmic and arrangement ideas in his head to life. Then, he encountered Yamamoto Tatsuhisa, a powerful drummer in his own right, and O'Rourke's mind turned. Along with Tatsuhisa, Ishibashi Eiko on keys, bassist Sudo Toshiaki and Hatano Atsuko on strings, O'Rourke has conjured a biting, dizzying rock masterpiece with Simple Songs.
Many of the songs here build on prog-rock tropes and move in suites, while O'Rourke sings defiant lyrics like "All your love will never change me" in a dry, pointed manner that recalls Warren Zevon. He almost whispers his devastation, like it's nothing. The songs are lushly dense and about as challenging and exhilarating as pop can be. (Drag City)