Good things come to those who wait, or so they say, and while Bruce Foxton's post-Jam career has been far from rubbish, it's probably fair to say he's not hit the heights as a songwriter the lost classic Smithers-Jones suggested he was capable of.
A short-lived solo career in the mid-1980s was followed by a 15-year stint in Stiff Little Fingers, co-writing competent if not exactly stellar tunes for the band as it settled into steely middle age before the launch of From the Jam, with the band's erstwhile drummer Rick Buckler, was welcomed with some trepidation by first generation fans and the new breed alike - at least we could see two-thirds of the band back in action with the familiar set list, although it could never be the same.
And that turned out to be the point.
Rick jumped ship as Bruce rekindled his friendship with Paul Weller and carried on the band with Weller-alike vocalist Russell Hastings and, lately, Joe Strummer's former drummer Steve Barnard, lacing the Jam tribute set with a few originals that culminated in 2012's very promising crowd-funded Back in the Room album.
A jump forward from its predecessor, Smash the Clock was also recorded at Weller's studio and the old charmer adds guitar to the woozy psychedelic Britpop of Pictures & Diamonds and some lovely piano fills to the acoustic stroll Louder. More telling contributions though come from Paul Jones and Wilko Johnson, most notably on the killer R&B rafter-raiser Back Street Dead Street.
Jam fans will love to know the record is peppered with Rickenbacker riffs, an echo of Strange Town here, a dab of Dreams of Children there, but they'd be foolish to approach this as a 'what might have been' record and claims made in some reviews that this is the best album The Jam never made are to be discounted.
For all that opening track Now the Time Has Come employs a brass riff that's a direct descendant of Speak Like a Child, this is a Bruce Foxton record and a very fine one at that. It's all about top tunes played well. There might be messages hidden in lyrics, but I would think he's beyond trying to do anything other than make an honest record as well as he can.
Foxton's vocals have never, repeat never, sounded better and when Hastings does take the lead he keeps the Weller-ian vocal ticks in check and never lets them get in the way of the song. By the time it all comes to an end channelling the spirit of Traffic with the instrumental 50 Yards Down Sandy Lane the overall sense is one of complete satisfaction.
And there aren't many contemporary records you can say that about.
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