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Bruce Foxton - Smash the Clock

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 16 / 6 / 2016



Bruce Foxton - Smash the Clock
Label: Bass Tone Records
Format: CD

intro

Former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton follows up his excellent ‘Back In The Room’ album with another collection of 60's inspired pop


Back in 2012 we ran a rather complimentary review of Bruce Foxton’s ‘Back in the Room’ album. It’s worth reiterating a few points touched upon in that assessment of the second album released under the name of the former Jam bassist/singer. Like ‘Back in the Room’, this latest collection is being promoted as a Bruce Foxton solo album. While Foxton’s distinguishable bass runs and vocals are obviously all over the album and while because of his standing in the music world it’s understandable why he’s getting all the billing, ‘Smash the Clock’, like its predecessor, is far from a Foxton solo album. The striking cover image, which shows Foxton’s bass punching through a clock face, gives a tiny clue; where the manufacture’s name would be it states ‘Foxton and Hastings’. Russell Hastings, Foxton’s cohort in From The Jam and the man who played such a major role in ‘Back in the Room’ is very much a part of this album. It appears that Hastings, apart from playing guitar and singing, also co-wrote the thirteen songs that make up ‘Smash the Clock’ with Foxton. Without wishing to take any credit away from Foxton, Hastings should be admired for the way he’s kept The Jam catalogue alive and can always be depended upon to deliver an energetic and mesmerising stage show, ‘Smash the Clock’ is just as much Hastings' album as it is Foxton’s. Why Foxton and Hastings are still doing the rounds as From The Jam (a forthcoming ‘As and Bs Tour’ is planned for later this year) is also a little puzzling. As mentioned a good time is guaranteed at a From The Jam gig and who better to carry out such a task than Foxton and Hastings, given that vocally Hastings can sound like Paul Weller at times, and the success and the following the band have built up is deserved and well-earned. But with ‘Back in the Room’ and now ‘Smash the Clock’ Foxton has proven that his own co-writes of new songs can be every bit as strong as those Weller wrote for The Jam. So why not take the plunge and go out as Foxton and Hastings and, while not abandoning his Jam back catalogue entirely, make the focus of their live shows their own current work? The other mystery is how Foxton can, at sixty, still look as fit and lean as he did in his 20s! So now the rant is over how does ‘Smash the Clock’ hold up against the excellent ‘Back in the Room’? It’s more than a solid well-produced collection of pop/rock songs and a more than worthy follow-up to ‘Back in the Room’. Again Foxton has kept more to his mod/soul roots musically than his former band-mate has. While Weller has explored many different avenues in his work over the years (and with his last album hit yet another career high), Foxton appears to have followed The Jam’s template a little closer. In fact while The Jam were said to be influenced by the Who and the Small Faces, ‘Smash the Clock’ probably owes more to the classic sounds of the 60s than any Jam album ever did. It’s not just a narrow Small Faces/Who influence that shines through either. On ‘Back Street, Dead Street’ there’s a distinct Yardbirds vibe going on and the band capture that classic R&B feel perfectly. If you’re one of the fans who felt The Jam were up there with The Kinks then a listen to ‘Smash the Clock’ will not just confirm how much of The Jam’s vision and sound came from Foxton but will leave you with a big grin on your face. There’s more ground covered here musically than on the last album bearing Foxton’s name, having Hastings as a songwriting partner has proven to be a fruitful partnership. Recorded at Black Barn Studios in Ripley, Surrey and with Weller contributing a little piano and guitar to a couple of tracks, there will be many who feel that, given the quality of the songs, this is some kind of lost Jam album or at the very least a what-could-have been project. For all the past connections, for all the Weller inflections in Hastings vocals and for the studio chosen to put these songs down this isn’t a sub-standard Jam album. It’s not even a good Jam album. It’s a brilliant collection of 60's inspired songs, expertly played and produced by a musician who, although he currently tours as part of a band recreating the glory days of a band he helped form decades ago, is more than capable of using his talents to create a fresh take on the music that inspired him so many years ago. The closing, pastoral instrumental ’50 Yards Down Sandy Lane’ conjures up images of Traffic no less. Foxton’s bass lines form an essential part of the overall sound, proving once again just how underrated the guy is and the songs where Foxton takes lead vocals (and even his background parts) show that he has seldom been on better form vocally. From the off with the brass-fueled, upbeat ‘Now The Time Has Come’ there’s little doubt that Foxton and his band are on to a winner here. While the lead vocals are taken by Hastings here, Foxton’s closing vocal lines can’t help but raise a smile. It’s so refreshing to hear his voice on something new. The song has such a positive vibe it’s almost frustrating to think that he’s spending his time performing songs that are over thirty years old when he can produce such little gems as this. The summery ‘Pictures and Diamonds’ also displays a Traffic influence. The sound of the Hammond Organ vying with some nice psychedelic guitar touches courtesy of Weller is stunning and but one indication that Foxton still has it. Weller also plays piano on the following ‘Louder’, another slice of summery pop that highlights Foxton's and Hastings' knack of creating catchy, uplifting tunes. Almost every song here is worthy of a special mention. The album is full of hooks, soulful vocals, intelligent lyrics and is performed superbly. Apart from Weller both Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones and Wilko Johnson put in brief appearances, but make no mistake this is the Foxton and Hastings show. The more reflective pieces such as ‘There Are Times (To Make Me Happy)’ give notice that Foxton is far from just recycling old sounds but is experimenting, albeit in a more subtle way than maybe his former band-mate is. Foxton has lost none of his passion and more than ever on ‘Smash the Clock’ has shown that he can combine many musical styles while never losing sight of a catchy tune. In 2012 he played a major part in one of the best albums of that year, and almost halfway through 2016 Foxton’s released an album that in six months will prove to be one of the best of 2016. ‘Smash the Clock’ contains some of Foxton’s best ever work. In Russell Hastings he’s obviously found another talented musician who shares the same vision; to make powerful, hook-laden, timeless pop music. Long may they run.



Track Listing:-
1 Now the Time Has Come
2 Round & Round
3 Pictures & Diamonds
4 Louder
5 Sunday Morning
6 Full Circle
7 Smash the Clock
8 Back Street, Dead Street
9 Writing On the Wall
10 There Are Times (To Make Me Happy)
11 Alright Now
12 Running Away From You
13 50 Yards Down Sandy Lane


Band Links:-
https://www.brucefoxton.com/
https://www.facebook.com/FromTheJam
https://twitter.com/FromtheJam1



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