I'm Not Jim Pair with Big-Shot Novelist; Gawkiness Ensues

A shaky marriage of diffident vocals and charming, amateurish drumming, the Silos might not have invented alt-country on 1987's Cuba, but leader Walter Salas-Humara wrote simple, effective songs that combined garage-rock drone and shadowed lyricism: "All Falls Away" built itself up from nothing, made itself comfortable with a couple of basic chords, and then nearly faded away in a wash of silvery guitars. Back then, he could revel in how the sun "casts my shadow to the west," but You Are All My People, credited to I'm Not Jim, finds Salas-Humara collaborating with novelist Jonathan Lethem and the production team of Chris Maxwell and Philip Hernandez on a set of songs about caged appetites, cars that get stuck and die, and a world where "so many things can go wrong if you try to understand them." Maxwell and Hernandez construct gawky grooves that encompass Bo Diddley blues and mildly funky basslines, while the lyrics make something of all these literary pretensions, from the spoken-word piece "Walks Into" (where every jukebox contains the Beatles' cover of "Anna" and only the narrator remembers Arthur Alexander) to "Missing Persons," which sensibly asks: "How can you be missing if you made the call?"

The textures—and the jokes—work fine, but the songwriting reveals a collective mind steeped in rock 'n' roll verities. This being alt-country or something like it, the basics are what these guys suggest as an antidote to the cruel, crowded world. If "Amanda Morning" celebrates a typically elusive party girl, "Uncomplicated" feels like an emergency water-landing engineered by a party of drunks. And the brilliant "Elevated Plane" gets I'm Not Jim up above the fray, where they don't belong, celebrating the same old indecision with an assurance that real life seldom demonstrates.

 
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