Following the pandemic lockdown, gigs have been very much back on the table throughout 2022, but for some people, there still seems to be an unease about returning to the fold and sweating it out with others in very close proximity. That might account for tonight’s Abdoujaparov show feeling a little…undersold. It might also be down to the fact that bandleader Leslie George Carter doesn’t always seem keen to trade off his Carter USM past, often preferring to let this band attract people on their own merits, and relying on fan knowledge to attract a crowd. You’d think between the presence of an indie/punk legend and it not being a school night, Ramsgate Music Hall would be packed, but whatever happens, those who’ve come out tonight know they’re in for a great time.
In 2021, Real Gone celebrated its twelfth year online. It’s hard to believe we’ve endured for so long, but that’s down to you – our enthusiastic and still growing audience – coming back every week to explore the more “cult” aspects of a new release schedule as well as continuing to enjoy our occasional dips back into music’s past.
Having long established a house style, our approach remained the same as the past few years: the site has mixed in depth pieces on new albums with occasional “archive pieces”, full length videos, and other bits of musical news and streams. That’s got us through another tricky twelve month stretch. That makes it sound like a prison sentence, but even with the ongoing pandemic hovering over all of us, it’s been far from bad.
After Carter USM called it a day in the late nineties, James “Jim Bob” Morrison and Les “Fruitbat” Carter went their separate ways. Jim formed the short-lived Jim’s Super Stereoworld before embarking on a dual career as a solo artist and writer of novels, and Fruity formed Abdoujaparov, an indie rock band with punky undertones. Having parted on amicable terms, the USM men actually shared stages together just a couple of years later with their respective new outfits, on a double header tour that pulled in the fans. Looking back, it was an interesting time for both performers looking to forge new paths. At the 2001 gigs, Jim seemed uninspired, often delivering music that sounded like a shadow of his former punning self. For Les, the opposite seemed true and opportunity to explore new musical ideas with different people seemed to invigorate him. With energetic live performances and a very matey stage presence, Abdoujaparov were definitely going to be a band that the old Carter fans would take to their hearts.
The global pandemic of 2020 knocked everyone and everything for six. People found themselves working from home and only meeting their friends virtually across a connected network of webcams. Businesses closed – both temporarily and permanently – and some places became ghost towns. Seaside tourist industries suffered; restaurants and pubs wondered if we’d truly reached the end times, and the entertainment industry ground to a halt with gigs being endlessly postponed. For James Robert Morrison, this seemingly endless landscape of bleakness became something of an inspiration. As man who’d always centred his work around social commentary, current affairs and the state of things in his immediate surroundings, the seemingly broken world and the online anger and self-entitlement surrounding it resulted in a huge burst of creativity.
‘Pop Up Jim Bob’ comes seven years after Jim Bob’s previous studio album, but in that time he’s been doing anything but resting. There have been Carter USM reunion gigs; two massive and critically acclaimed solo tours and, as J.B. Morrison, he’s written award-nominated novels. You can say what you like about this man, but you could never accuse him of being lazy. Compared to his Carter days, Jim’s solo work has sometimes been overlooked, but as those who were present at any of his “National Treasure” shows – or have been lucky enough to catch him at other times with pianist Chris-TT – will attest, he’s lost none of his lyrical bite. Those still paying attention after 1997 have known the pleasures of Jim’s sweary cookery teacher (‘Mrs. Fucking MacMurphy Teaches Food Technology’), Ray Davies-esque romances transplanted to the inner city with added heroin for the heroine (‘In The Future All This Will Be Yours’) and supermarket unrest (‘The Tesco Riots’, a number that melds a very Carter USM-ish lyric with the kind of bluesy arrangement you wouldn’t have found within a hundred miles of his previous band’s albums). With most of his best work carrying a strong narrative, Jim has continued to be one of the UK’s most distinctive songwriters, regardless of any musical differences.