❉ Snapshots of modern life in the form of a two-disc recap of Jim Bob’s prolific solo career, reviewed by James Collingwood.
Once part of the duo Carter USM, Jim Bob (real name James Robert Morrison) has made consistently good solo records over the last two decades. Cherry Red Records’ excellent The Essential Jim Bob distils highlights of his prolific solo output into a two-disc collection. It features songs from the albums Angelstrike!, A Humpty Dumpty Thing, Goffam, What I Think About When I Think About You and Jim Bob Sings Again, bringing the story up to date with tracks from his recent Top 40 albums Pop Up Jim Bob and Who Do We Hate Today.
The eye-catching album artwork, once again by Mark Reynolds (aka Stuff by Mark on Instagram), doubles as a “find the hidden songs in the pictures” Easter egg hunt.
The underrated Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine had fourteen top 40 singles and four Top 10 albums in the nineties and are fondly remembered for the time guitarist Les “Fruitbat” Carter rugby tackled children’s TV presenter and future infamous queue jumper Philip Schofield on live television at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.
Carter USM made a final concert appearance in 2014. Since then, as well as making music, self-confessed “man of many words” Jim Bob has written two autobiographies and various well-received novels under his real name J B Morrison.
This album consists of 21 tracks across two discs and the first starts with the 26-second opener 2020 WTF!, a bewildered statement about a preposterous year. Stand-out tracks on the first disc include Dream Come True with its voice sample (Elon Musk?), the epic Coach: A Seat 21 and the melancholic Victim which has piano accompaniment from London singer songwriter Chris T_T.
The album is full of Jim Bob’s characteristic snapshots of the modern world. The Summer Of No Touching is a song directly about the 2020 lockdown, making reference to Cillian Murphy’s character in 28 Days Later and conspiracy theories from “’90s rock stars”. Kidstrike! Is about climate protest and Another Day At The Office is a Housemartins-esque description of the mundanity of the 9 to 5.
The second CD opens with the brilliant 2020 single Jo’s Got Papercuts with its lyrics about getting older in a confusing world – “she knows she can’t dance to the Smiths” and “everyone’s banging their own damn drum”. Johnny Cash is another piano accompanied near classic and Song For The Unsung and #thoughtsandprayers reflect on the tumultuous events of the last two years. It’s interesting to hear Jim Bob’s take on life and the album is full of his distinctive, simplistic guitar riffs, sequencer programming as well as more lush orchestral moments.
In a recent interview Jim Bob has said that he wanted to sequence a selection of tracks that can be enjoyable to listen to on a car ride – a kind of “best of” full of bangers. The album does achieve this and it ends with the Bowie-influenced Angelstrike! – an epic track!
❉ Jim Bob: ‘The Essential Jim Bob’ (2CD: CDBREDD851, RRP £12.99/2LP: BREDD851, RRP £29.49) released by Cherry Red Group, 11 November 2022. Pre-orders will receive a freebie download of the official live Jim Bob bootleg album ‘Being Alive – Live at Brixton Electric’.
❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre. His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1