2001's No Such Place, Jim White's sophomore LP, is a collection of whimsical tall tales set to music. It's not unlike his debut of four years prior, Wrong-Eyed Jesus!, only bigger, darker, and weirder. A look back at 43 years of life-in-Technicolor, the disc is suitably all over the map, at times recalling Tom Waits at his most evocative, Neil Young at his most emotive, and PJ Harvey at her most desperate. But these tags too easily resolve a wonderful mess of an album by a man who's clearly operating on a wavelength all his own.
Consider the lyrics: "I'm handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi/My girlfriend blows a boozy good-bye kiss/I see flying squirrels and nightmares of stigmata/Then awakening to find my Trans-Am gone"; "God was drunk when he made me, but that's okay, 'cause I forgive him"; "From baby's breath to the rattle of death, I seek the love that never fails." Thus the stage is set for the "hick-hop" to come. That's the description the singer's given his brand of – oh, how shall we put this? – electronic-laced, bluegrass-tinged, outer-space country...with a hint of R&B thrown in for good measure. Not a sound that translates too well to the printed page (or computer screen), but one that's so adventurous that a lesser description just wouldn't do it justice.
The ambitious genre cross-pollination – from the intergalactic-planetary take on Roger Miller's "King Of The Road" to the haunting "Corvair" to the Lou Reed hiccup that is "10 Miles To Go On A 9 Mile Road – is the work of some unlikely collaborators: trip-hop trio Morcheeba, Sade cofounder Andrew Hale, and electronic guru Q-Burns Abstract Message. How these people got together, let alone how they got together with White, is anybody's guess.Sometimes you just gotta look to the cosmos and give thanks. Which is just the type of act inspired by No Such Place, a crazy, mixed-up collection befitting a crazy, mixed-up world. The point's not to ask how it all came together; merely to take it in, admire it in all its fucked-up glory, and give thanks where thanks is due.