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, @TheHoldSteady and @BeachSlang are more recent reference points for much of what The Small Hours delivers. “Is This Thing On” knocked my socks off with its 80s edgy guitar pop (@XTC) and alt-rock slant (@TheReplacements). 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. —Power of Pop