NOTE: Jim never made it much of a priority to send his albums to music magazines to be reviewed and indeed stopped the practice altogether in 2007. These are all the known reviews through 2003's WASP 51!, though it must be noted that several (for example, the infamous MAXIMUM ROCK'N'ROLL review of BLOOM OR DIE?) have apparently been lost for good. If you perchance might happen open a review not included here, why not send a copy to Thanks! 

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: Jordan Williams's extensive reviews of Book of Kills releases through 2005's I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE can be found here.

Bloom or Die 

'Checked the box, found this one's been sitting there since 1989. Oops! Guess Jim found a subtle way to remind me to review it (with his letter concerning the viability of homemade music.) Anyway, glad he did. Shelley produced this cassette at home with his Portastudio "and a lot of cheapo effects." Got to say it's not the best recording I've ever heard - a lot of stuff crammed on that skinny tape - but it's fun nevertheless. Jim likes abrasive/primitive psychopunk, with lots of acidic chainsaw guitar and Lydonesque vocal squalls. Once again, energy, guts and superior material prevail over technical limitations.' 

--Alternative Press (Issue #33) 

'Bloom or Die? is the first tape from Book of Kills, which is hometaping extraordinaire James Shelley. Recorded in 1989 on a Tascam 244 Portastudio, this recording consists of 11 tracks on which Shelley plays all the instruments. Most of the songs have a late 70s-early 80s pop/punk sound. The musicianship is rather impressive, especially considering that this is a one-man show. The continuous use of distortion, along with a so-so production make the whole recording sound a bit fuzzy, and this becomes redundant about mid-way through the tape. Nevertheless, Bloom or Die? includes some Shelley standouts such as "The Night John Lennon Died," "Girl Can't Help It!" amd "(I Just Wanna Be) Normal," which makes it a must-have for Shelley fans and also a good introduction to the man himself.' 

--Kim Ware-Mathews (Gajoob 7/4/97) 

For the Good of the Cause 

'Okay, I want to wrap up with two new efforts from artists we've heard from before. First up is Jim Shelley a.k.a. Book of Kills, whose new tape, For the Good of the Cause is available on his own Ain't Records label (PO Box 313, Dayton, VA 22821). Side one features Jim's original songs, many recorded as demos for his abortive deal with MiracleWorks Records. Recording quality varies, but for the most part these songs are great, framing smart and cruel works within classic pop and rock arrangements. I loved "Simple World," a surreal, paranoic and darkly funny folk song. Side two is a collection of real folk songs; blues, ballads and gospel numbers which Jim has tugged like screaming, rocking newborns into the 90s. The way the old words come alive is miraculous and inspiring; I haven't heard the likes of this since the Byrds. Ya gotta get it.' 

--Alternative Press (Issue #45) 

'Another tape from Jim Shelley of Dayton, Virginia. Side one is original stuff and quite good. "Simple World," "I'm Glad I'm Not a Rock Star," and "The Sound of a Door Closing" are really great, worth the price of the tape alone. Side two is a masterful collection of deconstructed folk songs. Absolutely unique. You need to get this tape. I don't know of another more passionate singer/songwriter in rock music today.' 

--In the Underground (Issue #3) 

'This reminded me of music in days gone past (Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc.) The first impression {I got} of this tape was the Talking Heads. The sound was there, the voice was there, etc. There is some very good music here and I would like to hear some current (new) stuff from Jim Shelley. Song notes: No Time For Love - I like this one the best. It's put together very well and the words are very good. Dear Annie - I think {Jim} did a good job of capturing the Paul McCartney and George Harrison angle. The vocals remind me a little of Bob Dylan. Revelation - Good tune, nice words. This tape is recorded with a low quality, so it is hard to get a good feel for the songs. I would like to hear a better quality tape as there is some good potential here.' 

-- Sticks (4/19/93) 

The Haunted Life 

'As readers of In the Underground know, I am a big fan of Jim Shelley's music. I am delighted to report that his new tape, The Haunted Life , is his best effort yet. Shelley's first album, Bloom or Die, was an out and out fuzz fest, but For the Good of the Cause , his second, was a clear indication that he was broadening his musical scope to include a softer, acoustic side in addition to the rockers. Haunted Life owes much of its sound to Basement Tapes -era Bob Dylan, with its clever, often puzzling lyrics and its heavy reliance on acoustic guitars, quieter drums, and harmonica. At times Shelley sounds like he's even imitating Bob's vocal stylings, but I think that's as much an homage to the master as anything. "Heaven," "Fool for Love," the incredible epic 'Notes from Underground," and "In My Room" are standouts, but there isn't a clunker on the whole tape, believe me. Get this one, folks. It is one of the best albums of 1992. (****)' 

--In the Underground (Issue #6) 

"Unplug your ears and let some truth fill your brain! THE HAUNTED LIFE is a loopy masterpiece from one-man band Book of Kills (a/k/a Jim Shelley). Sharp, enigmatic lyrics combine with spooky/spirited instrumentation to create an album not like anything you're probably going to hear this year and maybe any year to come!" 

-- Orbital (December 13, 1992) 

'Add Jim Shelley to your list of highly prolific, consistently proficient DIY artists. Shelley delivers the goods one song after another on this release. It's got a raw, Dylanesque kind of street poetry feel to it, complete with harmonica. Recorded at home, this one's got a gritty emotional muscle. And the songs are damn good, too. Highly recommended. 

-- Bryan Baker - Gajoob circa 1993) 

Don't Stop the Scream 

'Book of Kills, Don't Stop the Scream: On this, his third and most powerful album, home recordist Jim Shelley veers from sunny pop to harsh punk, yet manages to weave both into a cohesive whole. That's because even the sweetest of tunes here has an unsettling edge, while his darkest nightmares are delivered with a leering smile. And all is squeezed through an incredibly distorted guitar such as would make Kevin Shields proud. His passionate performance is tamed not at all by the unashamed demo nature of the proceedings. Those interested in excellent songwriting in its purest, most immediate form must pick up on this guy! (Ain't Records, POB 313, Dayton, VA 22821)' 

--Alternative Press (Issue #49) 

Wee Jim's Blackeye 

'Book of Kills,Wee Jim's Blackeye. "Sorry if I'm not what you wanted me to be," snarls Jim Shelley on "Killing Time Again," from his seventh self-release. Song titles reveal a theme: "Face Up to Your Life," "My World Turned to Black," "This World is Gonna Let You Down," "I'm So Bored," and (ominously) "Get My Gun Alison." As Shelley broods at the crossroads, frustration and doubt burrow like worms through claustrophobic walls of sawtooth guitars. Not a great recording, but this man sings from his soul. Worth hearing, kids. (POB 313, Dayton, VA 22821)' 

--Alternative Press (Issue #61) 

'Jim Shelley's Book of Kills is sorta like a sneering Bob Dylan with walls of distorted guitar, riffs, and solid songs from beginning to end. Shelley's output is amazing, and this is another in a long list of highly recommended releases from this hometaper. {MEDIUM: cassette (ask about cdr's)}.' 

--Gajoob Magazine Online (October 26, 1998) 

Through the liner notes I gather that this is a solo work from one JIM SHELLEY. All the songs were originally recorded in a 4 month period in 1993 except for one piece from this year. Weird that, makes me wonder what happened in between. I could discern no real advance between the eras so one would assume that he put the instruments down for a while. Since this is a CDR, it reminds me that we will be seeing all sorts of old material resurface. JIM must have wanted to be a songwriter back in 1993, and he wasn’t too bad either, the song writing that is. The music itself is uninspired and turns to mush after 3 or 4 songs. File under new wave too late. 

od mcUB (AutoReverse Winter 1999) 

In My Room: The Best of Book of Kills, Vol. One 

'In My Room: The Best of Book of Kills, Vol. One: Along with F.M. Cornog, Jim Shelley belongs in the lo-fi pantheon. A sprawling, 29-song retrospective from 1988 to the present, In My Room is by turns ugly, angry, tortured, wistful and exhilerating. A handful of lost souls worship this guy. Here's your chance to join them. (Ain't Records, POB 313, Dayton, VA 22821)' 

--Alternative Press (Issue #77) 

'Best of tapes from cassette artists are definitely a welcome treat because they allow you to experience their stuff without having to wade through a lot of sometimes self-indulgent filler. Don't get me wrong; I think the self-indulgence is a big part of the charm of DIY cassettes. The freedom to be self-indulgent is the beauty of DIY, in fact. But best-of's are still a great opportunity to hear a consolidated testament to any hometaper's greatness. The problem with Jim Shelley putting out a 'best of ' tape is that most of his tapes already sound like best of's because he puts out such consistently good stuff. 'In My Room,' '(I'm Glad I'm Not a) Rock Star,' 'Haunted Life,' 'The Night John Lennon Died,' '(I Just Wanna Be) Normal,' and many others are all here on this 90-minute shining example of what's very cool about hometaping and you really must make it a point to get this one.' 

--Gajoob (August 5, 1995) 

Songs For A Gone World 

'I just want to thank Jim Shelley for making music.' 

--Something/Anything? (Issue #3) 

'Jim Shelley claims this is his "least popular tape ever." Too bad, since as the title suggests, this is a non-stop trip through a really gone world. Perhaps that's the problem. Jim admits this tape is a bit of an anomaly given his tendency toward verse/chorus/verse songwriting. Maybe his fans are put off by such an unleashment of pure strangeness. Don't get me wrong, there are some very accessible songs here ("Thousand Voices" is particularly cool), but they're loopy in a sort of Pere Ubu way and they are scattered amongst some really adventurous collage pieces and instrumentals with sampled sounds weaving in and out. The styles shift sometimes abruptly, sometimes gradually, but always with a natural flow, making this tape a real adventure. 

--Greg Mathieson (Gajoob 7/11/97) 


'The next trend in modern music seems to be benign complaisance, but these guys need never worry about falling into that hole. The aggressiveness of their music evokes an inner anger which the intelligence of the lyrics only partially exorcises. Jim Shelley has released a phenomenal number of cassettes doing the Stevie Wonder thing, overdubbing all the parts, under the name of Book of Kills. Finally he's ready to take this huge body of music to the people and they're not gonna be ready for it. The new band has produced an eight song tape of which at least three songs will not get out of my head. Book of Kills will be a part of your otherwise bleak future.' 

--Rip Snap Meow #3 

Saint Judas (and/or Big Business Monkey, Vol. 2) 

'Shelley writes, 'I think this is one of my better tapes. It's rough and sloppy but I think there are some really decent, interesting songs on it.' 'Decent' and 'interesting' are understatements, of course, as those of you with any familiarity with Jim Shelley's work both under the guise of solo artist and as Book of Kills will attest. Some cassette artists seem like they can just churn out a prolific stream of great tapes and Jim is one such artist. This sounds like rock and folk and several other things that come between. Among many excellent songs, 'I Wish I Was a Machine' stands out, along with 'That's What She Said' and, hell, more or less the whole batch.' 

--Gajoob (August 5, 1995) 

'A great writer of letters, Shelley has been spilling his guts to me for years, chronicling the ups and downs of a small town-school teacher-cum punk rocker. Which I certainly don't mind because he's a songwriter of the first rank. Shelley's music is raw, desperate, incisive and unsparing; if Dylan grew up a punk, listening to Iggy Pop instead of Woody Guthrie, he'd write tunes like 'Idiot Planet.' A compilation of 2 earlier and now unavailable tapes, BBM 2 features 5 songs by a live incarnation of BOK; it's crushing stuff that I wish I'd experienced live. The rest is Jim solo and even more abrasive. Saint Judas is all solo work and about the best he's ever done. Do all three of us a favor - you, me and Shelley - and check this guy out.' 

--DemoUniverse (July 16, 1995) 

'This tape, in from Jim Shelley (who sez he "only sends out stuff to GAJOOB & a coupla others") is truly a refreshing change. Jim sez he's a "schoolteacher who wants full-time employment in music" (to paraphrase hiz letter). Well, if I wuz doin' th' hirin' this ROCKIN' little DIY tape would get MY vote! Crisp but odd (in the tradition of Godley/Creme, if ya kin' remember THEM). If th' prospective employer got a view o' th' j-sheet (especially if that's a flic of JIM), angry black Judas against stark yaller, he'd surely have to look elsewhere. HIGH energy guitars jangle against hiz disturbing rant and rave style ov vox. This is NOT th' formula crapola ya'd hear onna RADIO! Production was fine, though I'd like to hear toonz on BOTH sides of th' tape, eh? Jim, you gotta punch out those RECORD tabz, man! Believe it or not, a simple title of "La La La La La La" really cot my ear! Good toonz, rock & rollin' FUN. SURELY GIVE Jim a JOB inna music BIZ! Let him get out AWAY from alla those snotnose KIDZ! No, this is a GREAT tape that comes MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from th' Zzaj!" 

--Improvijazzation Nation (August 15, 1995) 

'Jim Shelley has put out a cassette of off-beat original songs here. He's done everything: writing, performing, producing, and done it well. Shelley growls out insightful, sometimes enigmatic lyrics over dense guitar, drum machine, etc. The tunes sometimes wander all over the place before settling back into the refrain, so you never know quite where you are. A distorted guitar lick might give way to an eerie synth interlude and pop back into a verse. Kind of like life, right? Then there's this song that I could've sworn was Lou Reed. Wild. It's mostly about relationships and/or coping with weird shit, always with a twist thrown in to keep it interesting. I like this tape - it's got enough of Shelley's own stuff put into it to make it worthwhile. Check it out. Not sure what Jim wants for this. But be sure to send him a note and find out!' 

--Five Cent Press (Issue #3) 

'This is an interesting little cassette. Mr. Shelley is evidently a well-known denizen of the lo fi world that even as you read this review has slipped into well-deserved oblivion. But. But! This is good work. Lo fi but it transcends its limitations rather nicely, thank you. Every song, with one or two exceptions, is very well-written and performed. Shelley does just about everything - writing, singing, playing - and sometimes that is not a good sign. But this is good. Like a cross between Bob Dylan and The Replacements and maybe a little Iggy. If that sounds interesting, write the fellow for a copy of his tape.' 

-- The Standard (Issue #4) 

BOOK OF KILLS is a one-man band consisting of one JIM SHELLEY, a High School Teacher from Virginia. According to JIM’s webpage, he has a hell of a lot of recordings out. This one came out in 1995, and also according to the webpage, he hasn’t done much since. I’ve listened to this disc three times so far and I’m still trying to formulate some kind of opinion. SHELLEY seems to like 80’s punk. (He lists SEX PISTOLS, THE REPLACEMENTS, BLACK FLAG and THE PIXIES as influences). 

There is a decidedly straight-ahead rock and roll feel to SAINT JUDAS. “O To Be My Father’s Dragon” is a sort of rap with some interesting samples of someone speaking what sounds like German and a chorus that states and repeats “What the hell is wrong with you, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.” I like the bass and guitar on this one. The violin and piano samples are a nice touch. “I Wish I Was A Machine” is a new wavy, punk rock song that reminds me of DEVO’s “Smart Patrol”. SHELLEY says, over and over that he wishes he “was a machine, I wouldn’t have to care”. I think this disc is starting to grow on me a little. “La La La La La La “ is a very poppy ode to a Punk Rock Grrrl. Terribly catchy. 

JIM SHELLEY is a pretty good guitar player and not a bad songwriter. His singing isn’t terrible, but definitely not one of his strengths;  which are that he has fun and that he has a reverence for classic guitar rock and roll (and I don’t mean VAN HALEN). “That’s What She Said” has a cool slide guitar and hand claps that remind me of T.REX. “My Date With Kim Deal” is hilarious! (Is it supposed to be?). The question I found myself asking was: “If this guy was playing in a bar and I had a couple of beers, would I dig it?” The answer is “Yup!” 

mikadams (AutoReverse Winter 1999) 

"La La La La La La"/"Simple World" Single 

'Martini number three...ah, Jim Shelley! My man! Who else would go for the big hole in his first single? As if it weren't hard enough to get singles played...sigh. "La, etc." is timid by Shelley's standards, but the tune's got charm to spare and a chorus to die for; lo-fi freaks will tear their hair out in jubilation. Shortest, greatest guitar solo in Rock History here! The bizarre "Simple World" wasn't written by Lennon, but it shoulda been.' 

--Jim Santo's DemoUniverse 

'Personally I've never been able to get over the inconvenience factor inherent in seven inches. It's a hassle enough to get up and turn over a record every twenty-four minutes or so let alone every four. Side A of this seven inch is well worth the hassle. The music is almost unbearably catchy for most of the song, but near the end it becomes almost unbearably evil for a short time. Nice. The bass line is really inventive. The lyrics are cool, especially since I think I know the person for whom it was written (starts with an "M"...?) The music on the B side is nice--cool keyboards and harmonica, but the lyrics are, umm...awkward. Jim wrote, performed, and produced it all.' 

--Tranquil Breezes (#1) 

'7" of two great songs from this Virginia artist. Acoustic guitar pop with great hooks. The songs are cute without being nauseating. I was singing along after the first turn around the table. Buy it, you'll enjoy it.' 

--Gajoob (August 30, 1997) 

"La La La La La La" Single Insert 
By Billy Brett 

"This seven inch is two songs by my friend Jim Nipe, aka, Jim Shelley, aka Book of Kills, aka a home taping maniac. Jim's been laying down tracks in his attic, bedroom, or garage for the past 30 years! In that time he's accumulated over 500 songs, scads of critically acclaimed albums (in the underground) and he's gone through numerous bands under the BOK title, most of them wildly divergent in style. Jim gave me a box of these 45s to give out on the road. He's apparently got 400 of them sitting in his garage collecting dust!! Here's some info on the piece: 

"'LaLaLa...' is a typical pop offering from this musical genius off the album St. Judas. If any song should be on a 45 and sent off to radio stations, etc, it's this one. He was wise to make '...She's a punk rawk Grrl' the a-side. On the flip we've got 'Simple World', a song Jim supposedly hates because people always identify him with it. It's a typical offering of this garage troubadour. 

These songs are definitely 45 material, but he's got loads and loads more where this came from, many many better and very few worse. I suggest that anyone who has even a remote interest in what you're hearing on this piece of wax should go to and pick a couple of records out and buy them from Jim (they're only $5 and all are awesome!). If you're into the stuff on this record, check out St. Judas. If you like more experimental stuff you gotta hear Songs For A Gone World. He also has numerous "greatest hits?" collections and recently compiled a 7 disk, career retrospective box set (over nine hours of music for $16!!! what!!!?!?!) 

I could go on for a while about Jim, he's one of my favorite recording artists. Let me get to the point: This IS underground music, people. Get with it. 

-- Billy Brett of Buck Gooter (2007)

Splendid Trigger 

'Jim Shelley is back! And omigod, he's written a rock opera. Wait, don't run away! I've been raving about the guy for, geez, eight years now, probably at some cost to my professional reputation (such as it is), but you gotta believe me when I tell ya this is his best ever. (I know I say that everytime. So sue me.) Stepping outside his depressive-manic-depressive self to creat an alter-ego has freed Shelley from the shackles of his comfortable but tortured existence: he takes more chances, and succeeds as never before. Although loosely tied to the sad tale of Glow Boy, the songs on Splendid Trigger aren't saddled with pretentious themes or orchestral affectations. Rather, this is just (just!) a collection of outstanding songs, sequenced to tell a story but strong enough to stand alone. Whazzit sound like? Not the Who, that's fer sure. How 'bout: Lou Reed, Bob Mould, Neil Young, GBV, John Lennon, Bob Dylan...and fookin' Book of Kills. Comparisons are an insult. The man is an original, and if you chumps don't pick up on it, that's your loss. He and I will get on jes' fine.' 

--Jim Santo's DemoUniverse (October 1, 1997) 

So Far in Every Direction 

'Jim Shelley's newest finds him in a quiet, contemplative mood, and among the subjects he's contemplating is love, happy and otherwise. "Angels on the Lam," "Especially for You," and my pick hit from this set, "Turn My World Around," explore romance in poignant and melodious ways. But Jim's not gone all mushy on us; "This Time (Maybe)" delivers a rare dose of psychedelic BOK, "Starchy" experiments with electronics and Angry Jim checks in with the smoldering "Fire in Brooklyn" ("The path to glory/leads to a locked door/and every one of our dreams/is rotten to the core") and the Dylanoid "When You Wish Upon a Star." I'm continually amazed by Jim's gift of melody; his cover of Bob Pollard's "Kisses of the Crying Cooks" pales by comparison with the song that follows, "Free Assembly," a gorgeous tune with a surfy guitar that reminded me of Echo and the Bunnymen. That no label, major or indie, has seen fit to put the man in a proper studio is case-closed evidence of the intrinsic bankruptcy of the music business. Are they all deaf?" 

--Jim Santo's DemoUniverse (November 29, 1997) 

'Veteran home taper and reviewer, Jim Shelley has been there and done that. That his own music should be so good should come as no surprise. His lyrics are sharp and his folk rock style befits him. To me, occasionally he sounds melodically like The Cure but frankly his music is more compelling. Well produced and uniquely delivered.' 

--Don Campau, No Pigeonholes (January 1999) 

'...Jim Shelley's last homemade CD is what I have been using as a picture in my head of what homemade music is all about. I've been using it as a goal to aspire to when making my own first homemade CD. From packaging to recording to everything, his latest CD is the best homemade music I've seen and heard this year.' 

--Bryan Baker, Homemade Music (March 1999) 

'Book of Kills is the one-man recording project spearheaded by Jim Shelley.  Shelley is a longtime home-taper who is a true musical chameleon. This compilation of 21 tunes is culled from Jim's cassette releases, and what a compilation it is. One minute he sounds like Neil Innes...the next minute it's Tommy James...and yet a song or two later he sounds like John Lennon. But whatever the comparison, the thing that shines through clear and true is a man who has a genuine knack for writing sincere and moving introspective pop tunes. The arrangements are sparse, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the melodies and chord changes. This is so much more real than most of the doodoo being squat out by record companies. This is, perhaps, because the idea isn't to sell product...but to produce truly quality music with integrity. There's no e-mail to give or web site to share (isn't THAT a fresh idea?)...only an address. Ain't Records, 206 High St., Bridgewater, VA 28812. This is worth going out of your way to obtain. An excellent obscure delight. (Rating: 5 Babysues.)' 

--BABYSUE Magazine (July 1999) 

'Book of Kills – SO FAR IN EVERY DIRECTION: This is Jim Shelley’s first digital effort (that I’ve listened to, anyway). We reviewed his earlier works (way back when) were impressed then... but this collection of 22 toonz’ will have you in pure bliss if you love well-crafted lyrical adventures. There are sections where he reminds me of George Harrison’s early solo albums (which is a GOOD thing), but pieces like “Turn My World Around” track 12’s “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” are without question all original compz that will make you a fan instantly! For fans of finely crafted lyrical folk music with both acoustic electric guitar(s), this gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Since this is a HOMEMADEMUSIC Association (fellow) member, I’m giving the cover/label art a rating (first ever, Jim) too... it gets a FIVESTAR ***** for exceptionally clean graphics, nice layout & perfect label placement. Contact at Ain’t Records, 206 High St., Bridgewater, VA 22812, at his shop on ( ), or via e-mail to' 
Rotcod Zzaj, aka Dick Metcalf 
Perpetrator Instigator, Zzaj Productions 
5308 65th Ave SE 
Lacey, WA 98513 

--Improvijazzation Nation (November 1999) 

'One of the reasons we started Homemade Music was our growing frustration at knowing many true artists whose work had little exposure and no real champion. This release was a sort of centerpiece for us because of the sheer magnitude of Jim Shelley's (aka Book of Kills) and that feeling that So Far In Every Direction was, we felt, a culmination of what motivates hometaping artists to continue to create beautiful music in spite of it all. This is a must-have addition to any homemade music collector's collection.' 

--Written by Bryan Baker of GAJOOB as an introduction to SO FAR IN EVERY DIRECTION (August 2000) 

​ This latest release by BOOK OF KILLS is a wonderful thing. The melodic bass lines and drum machines remind me of the best of Brit-pop circa 1981. This is easily one of the best homemade products that I’ve heard all year. 

Mad Monkey (AutoReverse Winter 1999)) 

Zherebilov (a very limited edition 'best of' collection) 

'I have no idea how to describe this guy's music. He's all over the map. As soon as I think I have it nailed down as a cross between 70s Eno and Allice Cooper, he comes out of nowhere with a Dylanesque tune. I definitely can't use my standard complaint - "All the songs sound the same" here!' 

-- Fresh Cow Pie (Issue #1, Spring '98) 

If I Should Fall 

'The first Book Of Kills CD is an important event, and not just because Jim Shelley's songs are finally enshrined in a semi-permanent, hi-fidelity format after years of brilliant but ephemeral cassette releases. Comprised of re-mastered cuts from 1997's So Far in Every Direction tape plus "some outtakes from an album that I just could never finish," If I Should Fall presents the BOK aesthetic -- a masterful merger of beauty and pain, in perfect pop songs with lyrics as hard and bright as diamonds -- in one convenient, easy-to-digest digital pill. This is your best chance yet to get with the program. Listen, was I right about East River Pipe? Sport Murphy? Trust me, I won't steer you wrong.' 

--Jim Santo's DemoUniverse (November 1998) 

"Jim Shelley is the quintessential home taper." 

--GAJOOB (March 1999) 

"Beautifully conceived homemade music from diy legend, Jim Shelley. As I write this review, I'm listening to If I Should Fall for the third time in a row.  I feel sort of like I'm sitting in the same room with Shelley while he weaves his magic on his little Portastudio just for me.  Well-recorded melodic rock featuring intelligent lyrics combined with a snappy pop sensibility and a dollop of dissonance.  Check him and his band, Book of Kills, out at  You can thank me later." 

--Big Muff (August 1999) 

1999 Listeners Club Holiday Compact Disc 

'Date received: 12/11/99 
In the spirit of the holiday EPs distributed to Beatles Fan Club members back in the Jurassic era, Book Of Kills (a/k/a Jim Shelley) gave away this five-song CD to members of his Special Listeners Club. Included are covers of "I Don't Want To Walk Around With You" by the Ramones, "Never Talking To You Again" by Husker Du, "Rain" by the aforementioned Fab Four, "She's The One" by obscure Philly punk band Dr. Bob's Nightmare, along with a BOK original, "(Everybody) Do The Wipe Out." The sound is sloppy and murky, he admits, but adds: "If you ask me, the sloppier and murkier the better." BOK archivists doubtless have this puppy already, but if you missed it, drop Jim a line.' 

--Jim Santo's DemoUniverse (August 2000) 


'Attention Book of Kills fans! It is finally ready. The much anticipated BOK CD, appropriately title EP, is mixed, mastered and ready for public consumption. Although the title is a bit unimaginative, this extended play CD is anything but. Rather, it is a milestone effort for HHS's original alternative band. Jim Shelley (a.k.a. Professor James Nipe) has produced a live six song studio recording that showcases the BOK diversity. Jane Firkin's vocals and acoustic guitar add a folk-punk flavor on "Cave In" and "So Wicked." (Thanks, guys, for letting me sit in on banjo on the latter.) The familiar "Caroline," which can be sappily slow to furiously fast, is done here at a more moderate tempo emphasizing both its power and beauty. "Fade" is the heaviest song on the album; suffice it to say, it ROCKS!!! Lisa Van Fossen's bass lines literally explode in your chest while Casey Firkin's frantic drumming constantly pushes the pace. Vocally, Jim is Jim, which is a good thing. The last cut, "If You Want It, Take It!", is poppy but hot. If you don't dance to this new Shelley tune, "you ain't got no legs!" 

BOK fans know that Jim has produced dozens of albums through the years. EP is his first effort with a live band in a studio setting. It is, in my opinion, the best yet. If you are interested in purchasing this $5 masterpiece, check online at If you can't remember the web address, just use Yahoo and search "Book of Kills." A few copies of EP are also available at Town and Campus Records. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.' 

Gary Bugg - Harrisonburg News Streak staff writer (February 2001) 

'Book Of Kills 


Date received: 3/8/2001 

After decades functioning more or less as a nom de cassette for Jim Shelley's solo recordings, Book Of Kills is finally a real band. The first clue to this astonishing fact is the person singing the first song: it's not Jim Shelley! It's a shock to hear a female voice emanating from a Book Of Kills record, but a welcome one. Guitarist Jane Firkin not only shares lead vocals, but also takes writing credit on two of the five songs on the band's debut EP. The change has audibly unburdened Shelley; he's not sounded so happy in years. Backed by Casey Firkin on drums — geez louise, Book Of Kills with real drums — and bassist Lisa Van Fossen (since replaced by Bill Bird), Jim and Jane romp through a short but crackling set of crunchy, jangly rock. Shelley's done more than his share of soul-searching in recent years, wrestling with the reality of his persistent obscurity; to hear him so invigorated is inspiring.' 

Jim Santo - DemoUniverse 

Hoggett Heads 

'Many so-called lo-fi home-taper types wear their solipsism like a badge, recoiling at the prospect of letting others into their world, or at least holding them at arm's length with long-distance postal collaborations. Not so with Jim Shelley. He's released many a fine solo recordings under the Book Of Kills moniker but has always yearned for a real band to give his tunes life, a desire repeatedly frustrated over the years as one combo after the other fell apart. At last, in late 2000, Jim hooked up with Jane and Casey Firkin and Book Of Kills "The Band" was born. With Lisa Van Fossen on bass, a debut EP arrived in early 2001, offering the dual treats of live drums, courtesy of Casey, and vocal and writing duties shared with guitarist Jane. The brief but rockin' EP bade well for BOK's future, and now here comes the full-length follow-up, Hogget Heads. Kids, this is rrrrrrrreal rock n' roll! From "Abandoned", the slammin', biblical opener, to the wild, cathartic cover of Lou Reed's "I Can't Stand It", Book Of Kills rocks like a house on fire. With Bill Bird taking over on the bass and the addition of second guitarist Randy Simpson, BOK soars and roars with classic garage-rock fury. Jane Firkin's aching, country-blues inspired numbers (and her whiskey-and-cigs voice) mesh wonderfully with Shelley's acerbic steamrollers; truly he has found his musical soul mate. Hogget Heads is not without flaws — the cover of The Beatles "Rain" never finds its center and Shelley's "Just An Average Day" is just an average song — but the many high points here are well worth the price of admission — especially considering you can buy it for just eight bucks!' 

Jim Santo - Demo Universe (April 2003) 

All About You 

Date received: September 17, 2002 

'A little life advice from ol' Jim Santo: When entering a romantic relationship with a songwriter, make every effort to ensure it ends well. Take special care If the songwriter is as talented as Jim Shelley. I'm not privy to this album's back story, but all that's important can be found in every line of an intensely felt work: "When your table's feast has grown thin/Will you still hunger for a taste?" "I'm lost in fading yesterdays." "How many days can you regret/How long do I wait until I can forget?" "She never fails to fail me/And she has finally jailed me/In the darkest corner of her heart." Tough stuff, but it is really no surprise that Shelley, one of America's great "unknown" songsmiths, traverses this perilous emotional terrain without dipping a toe into self-pity or cruelty — both of which lurk at every turn and either of which would have sunk All About You into the netherworld of mopey losers at love. It's a sad record for sure, but also stirringly melodic, with songcraft that more than stands up to "Then I Kissed Her," a reverse-polarity cover of the Crystals classic that Jim renders with perfect poignancy. Seldom has suffering sounded so sweet. I hope he's feeling better by now.' 

Jim Santo's Demouniverse (October 2003) 

'Home taping veteran throws down another quality set of personal rock. Hooky, crafted and sincere. Jim's got it all.' 

Don Campau's No Pigeonholes (January 2004) 

Songs For A Played Out Generation 
(The Splendid Ezine Featured Review) 

"Jim Shelley is something of a cult hero as far as home-recording goes. His 36th (yes, you read that correctly!) release, true to his inhuman level of productivity, is a consistently strong album that features nineteen tracks and clocks in at well over an hour. 

Opener "What Never Was", though mellow, is instantly catchy -- by no means an easy task. The low-key vocals prove to be a perfect match for the strummed acoustic guitars and electric lead lines; overall, the tune recalls recent Ween material, implying a sort of classic rock pastiche. Elsewhere on the disc, Shelley's vocals skew Neil Young-ward -- particularly in "Heaven" and "I Fell Inside". The latter, much like "What Never Was", meshes simple electric guitar themes with minor key acoustic chord progressions. 

Shelley isn't all about polish: several of these Songs take a more distorted, borderline punk-rock approach. "I Start to Fall" is the best of them, with a propulsive drum beat (programmed, as is the case throughout the disc, though it isn't as distracting as you'd expect) and a Pixies-aping guitar riff. For even greater variety, a handful of tracks include piano and keyboard accents; "See You Again", for instance, layers in a beautifully subtle piano theme into its chorus. 

As the song titles suggest, Songs for a Played Out Generation has a melancholy vibe, though Shelley never allows the material to get oppressive. If anything, an indescribable sense of innocence permeates much of the work here, giving rise to the image of Shelley as some sort of man-child, toiling away in his basement studio. 

Although Songs for a Played Out Generation is a home recording, the sound quality is quite good. Shelley achieves a warm, full sound, even with programmed drums, and the electric guitar's dirty tone is particularly effective in the more aggressive tracks. If more home-recorded efforts demonstrated the care and refinement Shelley demonstrates here, DIY music might not be an outsider art form.' 

--Garrett Splain - Splendid Ezine (February 2004) 

WASP 51! 

"Jim Shelley 
Wasp 51! 

Date received: September 11, 2003 

I've been singing Shelley's praises for so long — since before the beginning of the Universe in fact — its become a routine: 

Jim sends me a fantastic homemade rock record; 

I implore the invisible hordes not to ignore this one; 

They ignore it; 

Shelley sends me an e-mail swearing off music forever; 

I congratulate him on his wisdom; 

He disappears for a few months; 

Back to #1 

So here we are again with Wasp 51!, a solo effort that is — believe it — his best work since 1995's Saint Judas cassette, and that's saying a lot. Shelley's customary touchstones — Dylan, Lennon, Young, Bowie, Pollard — are polished to a gleam as this matchless lyrical alchemist turns rock into gold: "I'll take the high road/And you'll take a pass/The shadow king of rock/Is slowly fading fast/Such a starry ride/But these things seldom last/In this worst of all possible worlds." Man, this album gives me the chills. Oh sure, the drum machine grates at times, but will ya listen to those chords? Those melodies? Those words? Oh Jesus, those words... 

You know what? Fuck you people. You can't have Jim Shelley. You don't deserve him. Go away! He's mine." 

--Jim Santo - DemoUniverse (June 2005) 

"(WASP 51!) really is incredible. It's just unlike anything I've heard and unlike any of (Jim's) other releases.  It's all so supremely crafted.  Jim speaks of musical crudeness a la Lou Reed, etc, but WASP 51! contains some very challenging, interesting structures that stooges like Dream Theater or whatever "technically unlimited" band couldn't touch. The disk taps a vein of originality and progress that can't be attained with "technical advancement".  I feel that's true for all of Jim's work (all of which has more technical prowess than I can touch with a ten foot pole) but WASP 51! is a great example of how songs can be "simple" and stick to your soul like peanut butter.  I mean, I was singing along to every song!  That means something (to me at least)!" 

--Billy Brett - Buck Gooter (June 2007) 


Recording under his own name and, more often, as Jim Shelley & Book Of Kills, his music stirs Dylan, Lennon & Young into a rough and tumble gumbo of poetic, impassioned American Rock like you want it. Shelley was, and is, an essential artist in the cassette underground; beyond question one of the finest songwriters I encountered in my travels through the Demo Universe.

-- Jim Santo DemoUniverse (January 2017)