Here we go. No sooner than I declare that I will be writing less about music here at the Power of Pop, then the Stephen Clair Small Hours album drops into my lap! Figures. And after a couple of listens, I just have to say something about his punk n’ roll spirit no matter how much it hurts!
And it certainly does hurt. Like a motherfucker. How does a genuinely visceral rock songwriter like Stephen Clair not get feted like the second fuckin’ coming? There’s precious little affectation on Small Hours and it’s a shame that something like honest musical graft gets short shrift in these pretentious times.
Sure, I can put on my rock journey hat on and dribble on about the obvious influences that Clair parlays into a potent punk n’ roll brew. That (made-up) term again. Those in the know will pick up on the Joe Strummer/Paul Westerberg/Kurt Cobain vibes maybe even the Springsteen and Petty nod and wink. But definitely, The Hold Steady and Beach Slang are more recent reference points for much of what Small Hours delivers.
“Is This Thing On” knocked my socks off with its 80s edgy guitar pop (XTC) and alt-rock slant (The Replacements). The song is a tight lean ditty that will hit you between the eyes. Probably the one that made the biggest impression.
The opening “Come Down” might be perceived as a retro 60s nostalgia exercise. A pleasing melody expresses a downward spiralling relationship. Sweet harmonies enhance the chorus and leaves the listener in a good mood.
Elsewhere, there are jabs at a pre-rock sound in “Dorothy” and “Fixing to Fly” – minimal and smoky in tone. Classical guitars in the former with jazzy arrangements in the latter, create a distinctive contrast.
I prize eclecticism, of course, and the rest of Small Hours covers diverse ground from cow punk (“Nobody Knows”) to Tex-Mex (“Pigs in a Poke”) to Heartland Rock (“Hurricane Coming”) and much more.
Like last year’s excellent Strange Perfume, Stephen Clair The Small Hours album is once again proof positive of Clair’s pedigree as a classic rock artist, his breadth of rock styles will satisfy any true lovers of punk n’ roll from the 70s to the 90s! Highly recommended. Check out Small Hours now!
… still there’s more …