Anyone who has seen Jim Bob’s recent live shows will know how he openly wrestles with his past glories as one half of pre-Britpop scamps Carter USM, the albatross that continues to feed its chicks. With relations with previous partner-in-crime Fruitbat perhaps now permanently strained after on-off reunions since 2007, Jim Bob now sees fit to follow up 2012’s Goodnight Jim Bob memoir, which chronicled the Carter USM years, by doing the same for the years since, in fact starting off by retelling the poignant meeting when the two agreed to disband in 1997. The struggle to get gigs and work are refreshingly relatable and all told in a sort of comic sans style with a gimlet eye for minor detail, self-deprecating wit and cheery wordplay. Anecdotes galore from a man who owes the industry and its egos nothing. So, we get the sort of honest, from the hip retellings that could come only from a man without any interest or need to maintain working or social relationships with these people. Cameos from Kasabian, Juliette Binoche, ‘Damon Albarn From Blur’ (the frontman even gets his own chapter title), Mudhoney and, um, Pop Will Eat Itself, all despatched with slightly embarrassed aplomb as we career through a career less ordinary if it hadn’t headlined Glastonbury and provided one of our defining pop duos.
Stopping just short of Partridge tragedy at times, Jim Bob is surrounded by a small but loyal team who second guess each other’s pranks that might sound exhausting and at times it was; the wry wit often a defence mechanism for the difficult lows of trying to forge a new career when your previous one was so successful. The text (and copious footnotes) are littered with puns as any Carter fan may expect; there are ongoing gags (the repeat until funny school of comedy) and recurring themes, although a whole Who’s The Daddy tour (with Fruitbat’s Abdoujaporov) is largely forgotten due to excess. While the sense of comic timing is good, the underlying narrative, or perhaps the elephant between the lines, is the continued deterioration of Jim Bob and Fruitbat’s (he calls him by his real name Les which adds a strange sadness) relationship from the initial break up of Carter, their solo and new band work, and a failed joint record label venture – as if determined to ruin each other’s lack of further success – tarred what was plainly once a very loving relationship. And In The Shadow Of My Former Self records moments of incredible bad luck, like when Jim Bob appeared on the unbroadcast pilot of Never Mind The Buzzcocks or an aborted Jools Holland appearance, or the time Kasabian supported his Jim’s Super Stereoworld, but the anecdotes are worthy, not despite this but perhaps because of it. A modern Shakespearean comedy or like Withnail & I in reverse. But as his ever-dependable side-kick Chris T-T notes “at least [he’d] been successful once”.
But it’s also a moving account that often focuses on Jim Bob’s struggle with nervousness not just on stage but in everyday life, the ever-dependable Mrs Jim Bob, and a chapter about a mugging that would have led lesser mortals to stay at home for good. It’s atypical to hear him be so frank when he says sometimes that the part of the day he least looked forward to was the gig, because he liked just chatting shit with his mates in the car or the Little Chef.
Henceforth In The Shadow of My Former Self becomes a sort of diary of a jobbing entertainer where the jokes never get old and, honestly, if we can all still go to work and laugh at this stage of our careers we will be doing something right. But he will always be Jim Bob from Carter and that is best summed up in the author’s own words: “to be recognised as a serial killer you have to murder three or more people. I think it’s the same for authors and books. You need to write at least three before you can start calling yourself an author. It’s more for musicians who write books…you’re going to have to win the Booker Prize before people stop referring to you as Paul McCartney from The Beatles”.