Jim Bob - A Humpty Dumpty Thing

George Bass 27/01/2008

Rating: 4/5

'Nature's perfect container... the future of all our hopes!' - that's how Adam West's Caped Crusader defined the mighty egg back in 1966. 'Holy insight!' is how his feisty sidekick might have exclaimed today upon hearing the new Jim Bob LP, which marries the bodge-it-and-scarper retromarketing of the global war economy with some untainted morals from time-tested rhyme. Braided together from the strands of two simultaneous projects -- an office cubicle concept album and a narky pantomime soundtrack -- A Humpty Dumpty Thing is the South London wordsmith's most rounded record to date, and sees him doing a fine job of transcribing life's everyday woes into his own upbeat brand of puntastic indie.

As with previous solo ventures, Jim has all but defected from the snarling synth-sweetened punk he made his name with in the nineties, and instead delivered a more disciplined look at what it is that pains him these days. However, this is not your standard singer-songwriter fare by any means, and Jim's ego plays second fiddle to the problems of the characters he incarnates so richly in his songs. Robin Patrick And Chris uses jiving MOR to follow the life of a man so cut off from the bleak outdoors that, in a blackly comic fusion of Rogue Trooper and Feng Shui, he's made friends with his flatpack furniture, while Why Can't We Get Along seems to eavesdrop on Rod, Jane and Freddy attending mediation; all group-hug choruses and lyrics that hanker for a fenceless Utopia. Chuckles aside, Jim still knows how to best wear his Serious Hat, parading it forlornly on the tearjerking This Phoney War, which perfectly vocalises a recruit's pangs of homesickness as he tries to cry the sand out of his eyes. Think Tigermilk dosed with a dash of vellocet drencrom.

Fortunately for the listener, Jim doesn't let his demons get the better of him for too long, and takes the odd break from casual sparring to deliver one or two haymakers. First single Battling The Bottle (Fighting The Flab, At War With The World) is a singalong tantrum/all-round war cry for the Philadelphia featherweight who never quite made it up the steps, weighted down by a lifetime of guilt, empties and kebab shop styrofoam. On the sunnier end of the scale is long-term live favourite Cartoon Dad, which, considering it was penned by a lifelong OysterCard Bard, pisses sky-high on the likes of Kate Nash's take on London's Diverse Natives. Telling the tale of a modern day Dick Whittington as he goes from romany idealist to Fathers For Justice stuntman, it makes splendid use of banjos, keyboards and horns to piece together a brilliant old fashioned modern day pop song. 'Dr Samuel Johnson you were very nearly right/I was tired of London but I would never tire of life'. If you only download one track etc, etc. But really, you can put a pin pretty much anywhere in the album and not be disappointed, like one of those balloons wrapped in sellotape to prevent intravenous bursting. A Humpty Dumpty Thing is a spike on the ever rising trend of Mr Bob's twenty year career, and shines like Kiwi Polish on a favourite pair of work shoes (though still with just enough mud crumbs to remind you where you've been). All eggs, one basket, strong handle.