Saturday 28 May 2016

Bruce Foxton - Smash The Clock

Playing in his own tribute band (From The Jam) is obviously going to have an effect on your own output.  As is the fact that having spent 5 years recording with The Jam (were they the biggest band in Britain at the time? very probably) means your legacy is assured.  It is also a fact of life that Bruce Foxton on his own has never really achieved the heights, or the acclaim, that perhaps his contribution to the aforementioned "Biggest Band In Britain 1979 to 1982" deserves.
His first solo album proper. 'The Freak', was good but not exactly indispensable.  His record company seemed to share this belief, and no more product was forthcoming.  He kept playing solo and in small club bands, and then in 1990 landed the vacant Bass post in Stiff Little Fingers.
He stayed with SLF until 2006, when he left to join The Casbah Club Bruce Watson, Mark Brzezicki and Simon Townshend (he'd been playing with the band since 2004, but now became a full time member).
A year later he moved from The Casbah Club to link up with Rick Buckler and Russell Hastings in tribute band The Gift, which who were subsequently re-titled From The Jam.  A 66.6% reformation led to a plethora of rumours of a full blown reformation.  To be honest, neither Bruce Foxton or Rick Buckler were on speaking terms with Paul Weller at this time, so this is as close to a reformation as would ever occur.
The loss of Foxton's wife in 2009, and his attendance at JohnWeller's funeral in the same year led to a reconciliation with Paul Weller, and an appearance on two tracks on Weller's 2010 album 'Wake Up The Nation'.
Depending on the version of the story you believe, this action either drove a wedge between Foxton and Buckler, or Buckler became disillusioned when he realised that From The Jam would never result in a full blown Jam reformation, and he departed from the band.

But ... once an artist, always an artist, and in addition to the standard From The Jam set, new music (created with vocalist/co-writer Russell Hastings) crept it's way into the set, and in 2012 Bruce Foxton released his second solo album, 'Back In The Room'.  Backed by his From The Jam cohorts (the drum stool now being filled by Mark Brzezicki), the album featured guest appearances from Steve Norman, Steve Cropper and Paul Weller.  To complete the "potential reformation" rumours, the album was also recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn Studios.

And so to this - his third solo album, funded through Pledge Music (as was 'Back In The Room'), and again recorded at Black Barn Studios.

From The Jam vocalist Russell Hastings is all present and correct here, and his vocal sound is so close to that of Paul Weller, you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe, just may be, the unthinkable has happened and this is The Jam's sixth album.
The presence of Paul Weller on a couple of tracks, and a couple more of the tracks sounding like they could sit comfortably on PWs 'Stanley Road' or 'Heavy Soul' certainly re-inforce this notion, but that is unfair and too simplistic a statement about this album.
The music is a mix of anglicised Motown and Northern Soul with a nod to The Kinks, The Small Faces, Dr Feelgood and even a dash of Jethro Tull.

The High Fidelity Rules Of Making A Mix Tape are adhered to here (ie start with something that grabs their attention), with opener "Now The Time Has Come" bursting to life with a drum roll before the horns kicks in.  Back to that unwanted comparison, this does sound like it was a missing track from 'The Gift' - a fine, fine opener with some fine bassmanship (what else would you expect?) from Mr Foxton.
"Round and Round" starts in a mellow blaxploitation funk mode before chorus burst out and then returns to the groove.  The mellow mood continues on "Pictures and Diamonds" with added psychadelic dreaminess.  The track is built on a rolling Hammond Organ riff an features the guitar work of the studio's owner.
"Louder" is acoustic based, and the comparisons continue with a Style Council vibe very much in evidence.
It may purely as a result of the title but there is a Small Faces meets The Jam (and even a touch of Madness) feel about "Sunday Morning", complete with it's horn section and Barrelhouse piano.  Make no mistake this is one of the most accessible, immediate and memorable songs here.
"Full Circle" opens with Paul Jones harmonica and Wilko Johnsons guitar - on the face of it, it sounds like a lost Dr Feelgood track with Paul Weller's vocal (this is a good thing!).
If you play a Rickenbaker, you can't help but produce a chord sound reminiscent of 1978/79 Jam, and many of the Mod Revival bands that followed.  And that is what you get on title track "Smash The Clock".  The addition of saxophone lifts the track into unexpected territory.  On first listening, it is the most disposable track here, and then furtherlistening elevates it to one of the key tracks of the whole offering.
Paul Jones harmonica is back for "Back Street, Dead Street" - a full blown rocker that speeds along, and just makes you want to jump up and down, or at the very least nod your head (or maybe that is just me?).
The musical backdrop changes again for "Writing On The Wall" stating with a Maggie May-esque acoustic riff.  It has a definite Folk root, and is almost Rod Stewart/Faces tunage with Paul Weller singing over the top (this may be down to the influence of the opening guitar motif, but I can't get away from the feeling).
From there, it is back to the mellow acoustic wistful dreaminess for the "There Are Times To Make Me Happy", and then a return to the driving Rock n Soul (is that a genre?) for "All Right Now" complete with liberal application of Hammond organ.
"Running Away From You" starts almost melancholic, but soon builds to a virtual anthem.  To be brutally frank, this is probably the weakest track for me, but not that weak that you want to hit the Skip button.
Album closer is the instrumental "50 Yards Down Sandy Lane" which re-visits the mellow mood, this time with added flute, and closes the album off in fine style.

This is all new, all good, but still rooted in comfort - a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining 35 minutes, with riffs, lyrics and bits of songs remaining in your head for days - much like going to a From The Jam show.

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