It’s long been my practice not to post up mp3s of newly released music on the basis that I’d hope the folk who drop by have a preference for purchasing things, whether it’s the physical product or digital copies via places such as bandcamp.
But, there has to come a point in time when a record has been out for long enough to be more closely featured, and that’s really the basis for what is likely to be a very occasional (and by very occasional I mean every three or four months!!!!) series called ‘The Nearly New Albums in Villain Towers’.
First up, from August 2020, is Pop Up Jim Bob by Jim Bob.
The PR blurb from Cherry Records had this to say:-
“After a break from writing or recording new musical material of nearly seven years, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine’s former frontman, Jim Bob returns with a smashing new solo record “Pop Up Jim Bob”.
“Pop Up Jim Bob” is a sharp and witty social commentary, full of catchy tracks that will delight Carter USM fans and anyone who loves a great tune.
The music is a return to his honest and intelligent indie-pop-rock. From the frank, dark humoured lyrics of ‘Jo’s Got Papercuts’ (“Jo knows it is what it is now, she knows she can’t dance to The Smiths now”), to the much darker meander of ‘Truce’, Jim provides us with songs of his most unique views on life. Kidstrike! is a lyrically busy snapshot of modern life in London, while ‘#thoughtsandprayers’ is a sardonic number that shines a light on the downtrodden in our society. From TED talks to drinking in the park, Jim’s vivid descriptions of his characters let us in on his world. A place that, deep down, we knew all along – and live every day.
Includes the thrashing thirty-second Punk single 2020 WTF“
The first thing to say is Jim Bob still has the same distinctive voice from the Carter USM heydays. The second thing to say is that he hasn’t lost his knack for combining brilliantly constructed lyrics with the catchiest of tunes, fast and slow alike. Jim Bob’s stuff made great sense to the 20/30-something that I was back in the 90s, which was part of the great appeal about his band. Now that I’m a near 60-something, it’s great to find he’s still very much hitting all my sweet spots.
It’s an album in which almost all the songs could be singled out for the ‘great short stories’ series, some of which will make you laugh out loud, while others will have you choking back snot and tears.
With a running time of a little of thirty-three minutes, it’s an album that doesn’t dream of overstaying its welcome. After a very short piece of instrumental music, Turn On, Tune In, Pop Up!, the album offers up the sort of string-laden indie-pop that would have me throwing shapes on the dance floor if it got aired:-
Kidstrike! is next up. It’s a three-minute anthem for the disaffected youth, and is followed by Ted TALKS, the most Carter USM-like song on the album, maintaining the fast-paced momentum that’s been on-show so far, with a frightening tale of a middle-aged man who lost his mind and went on a killing spree.
Side one ends with Truce, the longest track on the album at more than five and a half minutes long in which Jim Bob co-narrates, alongside Jen Marco (who also plays guitar as part of the band which was assembled for the album) a Christmas tale of a better world we could, and should, be inhabiting.
Side two, as the press release states, opens with a thirty-second punk single:-
mp3: Jim Bob – 2020 WTF!
It’s followed up with the ridiculously catchy pro-environment number, If It Ain’t Broke, before the album does the first of a couple of handbrake turns.
BIG Boy is a slow number, defiant in nature and driven along by keyboards, including a music-hall turn on the piano near the end.
The next one up is the ‘this would be hilarious if it wasn’t so accurate’ thanks to the poppy/glam rock Barry’s On Safari (In His Safari Suit) bringing forth the life and thoughts of a right-wing prick of a man.
The highlight of the album, certainly from my many listens over the past couple of years is this:-
It’s a wry and biting commentary on how fucked up the world is in the early part of the 21st century. Thirty years ago, Jim Bob would have screamed this one out with the real possibility of damaging his throat…the restrained delivery in this instance makes it all the more effective and poignant.
There’s one more track to go – You’re Cancelled And We’re Done. It’s less than two minutes long, and given that much of what has come beforehand has made the listener wonder how best to escape the insanity of the modern world, is it any wonder that Jim Bob goes first-person narrative and informs us that he and his wife are away to hide in the woods. It’s a beautiful, funny and perfect ending to an album that really deserved much more attention that it got on its release.