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Jim White | No Such Place (Luaka Bop)
White's previous album (Wrong Eyed Jesus) was a criminally overlooked eclectic classic, of that there can be no doubt. It signalled the arrival of a unique talent, a genuine original. But - and isn't this always the way? - it sunk without trace. Or, to be truthful, it showed up in one to many of the world's cut-out bins, awaiting the chance to seduce another unsuspecting listener. Truth is an artist such as White had no business on a major label, subsidiary or otherwise. But then would the all-important re-birth from cab-driver and catwalk model to fully-fledged songsmith have been realised without the intervention of a succession of major players...? It's a tough one to call. As, frankly, is No Such Place - the unexpected 'second chance' - again on David Byrne's Luaka Bop. As 10 Miles To Go On A Nine Mile Road proved on the Loose 2 compilation last year, the slickness that coats the three Morcheeba-produced tracks (all sequenced within the first five) seems at odds with the back-woods quirkiness of White's delivery and twisted lyrical world. Such a criticism can also be levelled at the quartet of tracks with Sade founder Andrew Hale at the helm - wrapped in a silky smooth sheen more suited to Julia Fordham or somesuch. Closer in spirit to the acoustic origins of these songs are those that enhance the inherent oddness of White's best material; the first of two versions of Corvair - "it's a home to the birds now, it's no longer a car" White pines over a scratchy, spooky, detuned backdrop - the ever-morphing instrumentation of Christmas Day (both courtesy of YMO's Sohichiro Suzuki), the sinister, brooding menace of Bound To Forget and, most tellingly, the simple mandolin, brushed drums and distorted vocal of the self-produced God Was Drunk When He Made Me. Whilst there's no denying the respective talents of all involved, there can be few people reading this magazine who wouldn't rather White struck up an alliance with, say, Joe Henry (who had a hand in Wrong Eyed Jesus), Roger Moutenot (Lou Reed, Yo La Tengo, Josh Rouse) or, perhaps most of all, Steve Albini, who would no doubt reveal White's heart of darkness. Such a place may even be found in the demos of this album...now there's an idea.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001