Star quality. What is it? How do you define it?

I could put the worlds most expensive suit on, (instead of these combats I bought on Amazon and ten year old Warks CCC polo top I went to work in today) and I’d still look like a scruffy bloke in an expensive suit.

Adam Masterson, on the other hand, looks like a rock star. He’s not, not really, but he’s the sort of bloke who could walk into a room and you’d know.  

It’s one of the many interesting things about Masterson. London born. Living in New York, this is his second album. It comes a mere two decades after his first. The first got him into Stadiums with Stereophonics, this one has got a list of special guests as long as the proverbial. I won’t list them because it’d be the worst review ever written. Instead I’ll just say one name. Glen Matlock. Not bad for a bloke you haven’t heard of, right?

That’s enough to pique the interest. But that only goes so far. Put the title track on. That’ll do the job.

From the song the vaguely trip hop pulse of the beat kicks in this beguiles and enchants. This is the sort of song that some director will use for a montage to wrap up the loose ends in whatever HBO thriller you’re watching. The piano gets inside you, the strings likewise and this has depth. It’s not ephemeral. Nothing bubble gum here. This is a moment in time.

Its not even typical of the record. In truth, there’s no signature sound here, instead there’s “Bring Back The Freaks”. It’s apt. “I just can’t follow the sheep” he sings with a fair degree of world weariness, and a song that despairs at the homogenised, the dull, the boring, belongs here, because this is none of those things.

There is, however, a sort of innate darkness. “Chains” is unsettling, there’s an urgency, a confusion, but there’s a poetry in the words, and the use of falsetto is clever.

That juxtaposes with “Take A Little Love”, drenched in slide guitar and with a gospel flavour, it’s a beacon of hope, an oasis of light and as warm as “….Bomb” gets. It’s always clever, though. Always. There’s a Dylan-esque flourish to the storytelling of “Run Away”. “Avenue Walk” is full of intent and yet is fragile, it’s a brilliant piece of songwriting, and an album you can never quite pin down or understand, has the quirky “The Kiss” up its sleeve. It’s a neat trick, it suckers you in like the very best football wingers, you reach for the lunge and its gone, off to something else while you’re left sucking a thoughtful tooth.

Springsteen himself, for example, would be proud of some of these. Not least,  the strident “Wild Wolves”, but if that’s “Born In The USA” as it were, then “Crazy Rain”, is “Devils And Dust”. The type of thing that truly makes sense when its 2.47am and its you and your innermost thoughts.

If you had “raucous Sun Studious flavoured stuff played in some New Orleans back street” on your Adam Masterson bingo card, then hats off, I didn’t, until “Rusty Cans And Dusty Alleys”, but its sensational. Living up to one of its lyrics: “conceived in the darkness, baptised in the light” and that is a high bar.

Van Morrison comparisons are as obvious as the Springsteen ones, “Cry With No Tears” finds some happy medium between them both, and although Morrison is present in the Celtic flavours of the wonderful “Leaves Against The Sky” too, then the gorgeous epic takes in so much and might almost prove the old thing about saving the best for last is not just a cliché. Rather, it ties up the loose ends and is a confident, classy closer for a record that deserved nothing less.

Often, you describe albums as “interesting” in reviews when they aren’t immediately great. That would be wrong in this case because “Time Bomb” is a genuinely interesting record, leaving you with as many questions as answers and one which sounds incredibly coherent for one with as many disparate sounds and with so many people playing on it.

It needs listening to, and it isn’t an easy collection to dip in and out of, but it proves that Adam Masterson is a fine, innovative talent. See you in 2043 for the follow up.

Rating 8.5/10

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