George Bass 07/12/2005
Seeing four hundred odd people gleefully mumble while they try and memorise choruses to songs they've never heard before is not a common sight, but then fans have come to expect nothing short of surprising from the enigmatic Jim Bob. Tonight they were in for a real treat, as this was the first live performance of his upcoming concept album School and the former Carter USM frontman was on top form, eloquently supported by a uniformed orchestra of glockenspiels, descant recorders and assembly hall piano (played by none other than Chris TT).
Jim neatly avoided any rose-tinted flashbacks about cheeky snogs to Spandau Ballet or other bog-standard school disco clichés, and instead dished up some more savvy tales of having your PE kit chucked off the bus by the hard kid, potty-mouthed food technology teachers and getting happy-slapped for wearing the wrong kind of trainers. The music worked brilliantly, showcasing his formidable knack for offsetting well-written catchy tunes with topical and incisive lyrics. Tracks like 'Taking Care Of The Caretaker' were rich in sympathetic gloom without once descending into flippancy, and 'Mrs Fucking MacMurphy' had the crowd swaying to its melody and cackling at its blackboard humour. The chemistry between the stage and audience was hypnotic, and once all twelve lessons had been polished off there was a mass audience exodus to the lavvies, similar on scale to the National Grid kettle surge during a World Cup ad break. Jim then returned to the stage for his familiar one-man-and-his-guitar rampage through the Carter back-catalogue and some choice cuts from his more recent solo efforts. This was the second wind of the evening, and watching such a large and assorted army of fans bellow along to acoustic renditions of irresistible pop-punk gems was a truly uplifting sight. The school orchestra made a final appearance for the encore - a virtuoso reworking of the titular track from last year's Angelstrike! LP which closed off the evening on a charged high and to a monsoon of frenzied applause.
The School album is released in March, and if it retains even part of the eclectic spark it generated at this evening's performance it will undoubtedly be a real treat. It's about time Jim got the fresh recognition that his music and wordsmithery warrant. Pay attention at the back there.