Smash The Clock
This Really IS Entertainment For the Modern World.
A little bit of me died in December 1982 when The Jam disbanded; as they really were a major part of the soundtrack to my life.
Subsequently I’ve tried to follow all three members careers over the years; loving the Style Council and Weller’s early albums; going to see Rick Buckler in Time UK, plus I bought quite a few of Bruce Foxton’s 45’s and his first solo album Touch Sensitive in 84; and even went to see him a couple of times in Stiff Little Fingers; but nothing compared to The Jam; did it?
I was always a bit sceptical about Foxton and Buckler’s re-incarnation as From The Jam; even though I’ve had some amazing drunken nights seeing them play live and reliving those heady days of my early twenties; but when I saw them sans Buckler; in the Summer of 2015 they had changed; ‘grown into themselves’ a friend called it. The Jam songs were great; but there was also the inclusion of a couple of ‘new songs’ and they fitted in a treat.
Those new songs; and more are on Bruce Foxton’s exciting new album Smash The Clock.
As you’d expect I was a touch apprehensive as I slid the disc into the player; and hardly dared take a breath for 30 seconds as a Style Council type brass section filled the air until Bruce’s distinctive voice followed reminding me of a Summery Small Faces meets Chic; Rhythm and Blues type dance tune. Phew; if the rest is as good as this; I’m in for the long haul.
Next up Round & Round is a touch more introspective and intense but somehow manages to have a mid-period Jam feel to it; although it probably owes more to Foxton’s own back catalogue. The best way to describe it is “it’s a song you wouldn’t turn off on the radio.”
The next two songs will give the album the promotion money can’t by.
The reason?In advance of hearing the album two particular songs, Pictures & Diamonds and Louder were the most eagerly anticipated as they are the most recent collaborations for B. Foxton and P. Weller Esq. In the Summer of 2015 the pair reunited at the Jam Retrospective at Somerset House in London; and while there is no chance of the ‘band’ reforming (I would actually go to Glastonbury at last if they did!) so this is probably what we’ve all been waiting for; but was the wait worth it?
In my humble opinion….YES!
Pictures & Diamonds features Paul on guitar (and what an impressive guitarist he is when he sets his mind to it) as Bruce and band deliver a lovely, slightly Psychedelic Summery ballad, with a deep Hammond organ spine; not unlike some of Stevie Winwoods early solo work.
T’other song Louder is a more jaunty, acoustic effort with Weller delivering a delightful piano accompaniament to presumably Bruce Foxton singing, and if it is its the best vocal performance of his career. This brings me to an ‘odd thing’, the album notes don’t tell us who plays what or indeed wether its Bruce Foxton or even Russell Hastings singing on any of the songs here. It was only via the Press Release that I knew of Paul Wellers inclusion, and at sometime Wilko Johnson plays guitar, but when and where remains a mystery!
It was only after playing these songs five or six times that I remembered what a great, undervalued singing voice Bruce Foxton has, and by the way he can still write a bloody good song too.
While many may hanker for the fiery days of their youth to be relived here; they should remember how old we all are; and while Bruce may have mellowed; the title track Smash The Clock should satisfy even the harshest of critics; with the sax solo stinging the ear drums while Bruce rages against the ravages of time……much like me these days.
Back Street/Dead Street which follows; is probably the nearest to an actual ‘Jam’ song here; with a chorus that is just perfect for belting out after 6 or 7 beers and don’t get me started on the fabulous harmonica playing by Sir Paul Jones of Blues Band fame.
Part of me doesn’t want to keep harping on about the Jam connection (and feel); but it’s difficult not to; baring in mind Bruce’s history; but what will surprise (pleasantly I hope) many listeners is the nod in the direction of Weller’s Stanley Road on a couple of songs.
Writing on The Wall and especially There Are Times (to make me happy), plus the two songs with Pau all sound like they could have been on that album; or definitely Heavy Soul in 97….which is a very good thing in my books; as this was PW’s creative peak in my humble opinion.
The album closes with a gorgeous instrumental; 50 Yards Down Sandy Lane; which in keeping with everything that has gone before it; sounds unlike anything else here; perhaps again, nodding in the direction of Traffic around the time of Dear Mr. Fantasy.
Well; after knocking Hell out of this in the car, on headphones and very, very loudly on the office stereo I can confirm every single minute of Smash The Clock has been well worth waiting for; and should easily please Foxton’s existing fan base and should also win over a host of Weller aficionados; as it is the best album that he hasn’t recorded since Heavy Soul!!!!!
Released May 20th 2016