Since the demise of indie trailblazers Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine in 1997, the artist also known as Jim Bob has carved out a unique musical niche that deftly defies easy categorisation. With a “no limits” kind of ethos, he’s released a series of albums that are stitched together by their eclecticism, and incorporate everything from folk to punk. Long player number 12, Thanks For Reaching Out, continues in that vein and, from start to finish, is a carnival for the ears, and one that’ll have you returning again and again.
From humble beginnings, opening (and title) track ‘Thanks For Reaching Out’ soon bursts into life like blossom in spring, and with a muscular riff, elbows its way straight to your memory bank. It’s the musical equivalent of Bonfire Night with flames licking the sky and rockets exploding overhead, and such is its all-encompassing effervescence that you wonder how anything could follow. A punky blast is how, angular and spiky guitars are married to call-to-arms vocals (always a good combination) and the resultant sound sweeps the listener along on upon a boisterous beat powered by razor-sharp riffs and a Mick Jones wail. Yet, Jim Bob knows when to apply the brakes, and the change of pace during ‘Sebastian’s Gone On A Ridealong’ is fairly arresting, and finds fun suddenly turning into disaster (as it so often does).
Much of this album veers towards topical issues such as Putin (‘The Day Of Reckoning’) and the demise of the high street (‘This Is End Times’), and while this puts the album at risk of ageing prematurely, there’s a touch of The Kinks’ Ray Davies to Jim Bob’s lyricism that means they’ll remain relevant for quite a while. Each cut is a novella that explores the minutiae of modern life, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy these songs many years hence, the way you would stumbling upon an old Polaroid that captures a special moment in time. And just like time and memories, Thanks For Reaching Out is a fluid record that’s at once past, present and future; the lyrics of each song tend to bleed into each other, and while not a concept album per se, it does give the album a unified feel, especially when the songs ping around in different directions.
Like an old school album, Thanks For Reaching Out is best consumed in one sitting to fully appreciate its echoing and foreshadowing, and no more so than on the two CD version. Opening track on the first disc makes mention of a “mixtape”, so in a nice piece of synchronicity the second is titled This Is My Mixtape, and presents seven choice cover versions, given the Jim Bob treatment. You get the impression that these songs mean a great deal to Jim, and they are handled with the care they deserve. However, he’s been wise enough to impart his own personality on proceedings, while there’s been no radical departure, these aren’t mere facsimiles either (we have the originals for that). Standout cuts include a staccato version of The Tubeway Army’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and, rather appropriately, a heartfelt rendition of ‘Labelled With Love’.
In our age of fragmentation and toxic politics, Thanks For Reaching Out offers a voice of reason, a moment of clarity inside the maelstrom, and that’s something we all should be grateful for.
Disc One: Thanks For Reaching Out
- Thanks For Reaching Out
- The Day Of Reckoning
- Bernadette (Hasn’t Found Anyone Yet)
- Toxic Man
- This Is End Times
- We Need To Try Harder (We Need To Do Better)
- Billionaire In Space
- Sebastian’s Gone On A Ridealong
- Befriend The Police
- The Prince Of Wales
- Thanks For Reaching Outro
Disc Two: This Is My Mixtape
- Are Friends Electric?
- New Rose
- Country Comfort
- Pretty In Pink
- Labelled With Love
As Disc One, tracks 1 through 12