Jim Bob's first book is - inevitably - an autobiography focusing on his adventure as half of incendiary south London punk-pop duo Carter USM. They were frantic duelling guitarists, accompanied by drum-machine, loudly undermining their intelligent politicised songs with a hearty appetite for destruction and naughtiness. Carter polarised opinion at the time and distance has only increased that split. So they're either remembered fondly as an essential part of early 90s growing up and discovering 'real' music, or they're a joke. Goodnight Jim Bob could go some way to reconciling the two views. Laugh-out-loud bitesize chunks of deranged pop excess mix freely with embarrassed nostalgia. In one fell swoop, Jim proves both his ability and underlying decency - hopefully re-opening doors and giving his low key solo career a decent kick up the arse.
Because there's a lot of - perhaps too much - humility here. It was one big accident, a pile of crazy gigs and a sense of fun giving way to fat record deals - seemingly without game-plan or cynicism. Here is a fine account of that odd relationship between corporate industrial intention and entertainer fecklessness. Hindsight proves all too clear.
Jim's cohort Les 'Fruitbat' Carter is a mighty character to work with. He jumps off the page, skittering from Neil Cassidy to Dennis The Menace. This book has poo in. Always being sick or planning a prank, an addled Fruitbat's key set piece (and a moment of history) is the Sacking of Schofield, when he drunkenly rugby-tackles the smug TV presenter to the ground live at the Smash Hits Poll Winners' Party. It's beautifully told: enough extra embellishment from backstage to freshen up a familiar legend. But he maintains this average throughout, from darkest corners of Europe to the Hull Adelphi.
With excellent prose and sophisticated layering, Jim Bob has written a better book than one would reasonably expect, though it should've been obvious from a decade of bittersweet lyrics. There must be serious pressure to write more. It will be fascinating to see - now he's used up his core subject - whether he puts fingers to PC again.
Less salubrious critics still run scared from praising Jim Bob or Fruitbat's solo efforts, because of the dreaded 'uncool' of Carter. A songwriter who once scored an ultra-rare 10/10 in NME is overlooked by pissy free mags like Logo or that Barfly one (forgot the name) because he's not 19 and playing thicker-than-thou punker garage. But he still commands a crowd and writes a blinding chorus. And if this hilarious account does anything, it should remind people that actually, during the grunge years, we did ok. A finely printed calling card for the good life on the road.
8Toby Jarvis's Score