Telephone Jim Jesus, born with the far plainer name George Chadwick, is one of the unlikelier products of tiny, snowy New London, New Hampshire. In that culturally isolated corner of the world, the few artist types, especially those with outcast tastes, tend to huddle around the same fires. After learning the half-handful of scales and chords requisite to punk guitar, TJJ co-founded his first band, a goth and hardcore hybrid called unfit, with two likeminded classmates.
It was in unfit that he first tasted sweet stardom in the house parties that his angsty high school band inevitably ruined. That inauspicious start was not for nothing, however: the two other kids with eyeliner streaked on their faces and shredded t-shirts on their backs were Dave Bryant (Passage) and Matt Valerio (Bomarr), who became TJJ's lifelong comrades-in-arms. Years later, Matt and Dave would move with him to Oakland and the three would share a boxy little room in a warehouse the rappers Sole and Sixtoo had just moved into.
Around '97, the trio started experimenting with electronic equipment and hip-hop and formed Restiform Bodies, an off-again/on-again project that strangely and wonderfully evokes nothing so much as a midpoint between Joy Division and Latryx. An essential element in the group, Telephone Jim Jesus mans samplers, keyboards, effects processors, bass and guitar, and accounts for much of the group's highly textured yet confidently melodic quality. His work with Restiform eventually generated a desire to explore musical ideas in a solo setting, and so after a years-long process, heavy on revision, he released his debut, A Point Too Far to Astronaut, on anticon in 2004.
For the past six years, it seems TJJ has been attempting to undo the sin of being born in a small, godforsaken town”he's twice toured Europe and crossed the U.S. countless times. And his follow-up solo album, Anywhere Out of the Everything, is, as much as anything, a testament to the loneliness, abandon, growth, and madness of a life lived on the road. A European tour with Sole and pedestrian in the summer of 2005 coincided with the break-up of an eight-year relationship, one that stretched from the middle teens to the middle twenties. Without a home to return to in the U.S., on a post-traumatic whim TJJ decided to stay in Europe, and for about four months careened mostly between Sole's apartment overlooking Gaudi Park in Barcelona and a Lithuanian squat in South London, doing an occasional show to scratch up money for the train. The moment he landed back in North America, he took off through the South and up the East Coast, with stints doing reconstruction work in a Vietnamese community on the Gulf Coast immediately post-Katrina, improvising anti-war demonstrations on Capitol Hill, and for an odd couple of weeks labored and partied in a shuttered hotel on Cape Cod.
Wandering through the overgrown graveyards, thrift store treasuries, and unreconstructed gothic quarters of Western Europe, he found both staggering artistry and usable material in the corridors of the old world. His return voyage through the physical devastation of the Gulf Coast and the moral wreckage of Washington D.C. stirred the impulse to create once more. Anywhere Out of the Everything (the title is a riff on Baudlaire's "Anywhere Out of the World") documents this period in great, if fractured, detail, from the cover art collaged out of London's trash to the variety of voices and sounds captured on Dictaphone and symphonically embedded in the music. So a violin sings in a London tubeway, a muezzin calls the faithful to prayer on a shitty speaker overhead, a crowd croaks out horrific noises, and the voices of he and his fellow travelers recite the desperate poetry inscribed in London tombstones and strain to describe what elsewhere emerges before them.