Jack Hues is not a name that most will be familiar with really, that is unless you are conversant with the band Strictly Inc. that he was part of along with Tony Banks of Genesis or with the new wave outfit Wang Chung with who had a big early 1980’s hit with Dance Hall Days. Since those days Jack has kept himself busy with The Quartet and also been working with the boys from Canterbury Prog outfit Syd Arthur. All of which bring us to this new album ‘Primitif’, which is actually Jack’s first ever solo release. It is a double album of some 16 songs of various lengths and styles, including a covers of Bacharach and David’s The Look of Love and Lana Del Ray’s Video Games.
The record covers several different styles and moods, its lyrics can be somewhat bleak and desolate at times but this is not a bad thing, rather it shows incredible honesty and bravery by showing us his raw feelings. There is also something of a philosophical slant to some of these tracks as Jack contemplates mortality, fate and free will and how these could affect our lives.
This is generally an acoustically led album, although several song are fully electric, there are some very interesting guitar lines and parts to several of the songs and the mood is generally hopeful. It took me quite a few listens to start to make sense of this album as it is one that you will have to persevere with to fully appreciate but that actually makes it a far richer experience in my opinion.
The disc opens with the aforementioned Bacharach and David cover and it is a jaunty romp through a classic song with good use of keyboard orchestrations and a strong bassline holding it all together as Jack’s strong vocal lines bring the song home with aplomb. This is a fabulous opener that leads into the more melancholy Whitstable Beach which reflects on the bleakness of the northern Kent shoreline, this despite the track having a driving beat to it. The song has an excellent refrain in the closing section, again this is another powerful song.
The third track, A Long Time, is an acoustic shuffle with the guitar punctuating the song with clipped tones. This piece is all about letting go and almost feels cathartic for Jack as he sings of the difficulties in closing a chapter in your life. The next song is called Cut and is a shorter but still highly percussively driven acoustic instrumental piece.
These two songs are followed by the lengthy and epic track Winter, which is the longest track on the first disc. Winter is a deceptively enthralling track with its very clever use of guitar tones building the emphasis of the song, the finality of things and how death stops growth completely. The mid section has some very interesting musical elements at play, a sudden bass and burst of guitar and discordant rhythms being employed that sound unsettling and the bleak call to let me think of nothing that closes this somewhat sombre piece.
Diamond Ring is next, another gentle acoustic song that speaks of a ring that has been lost but the memories it held still remain in the singers mind as he recalls the wearer and the events that it represented.
The brief interlude of Spring follows, an acoustic and atmospheric instrumental piece that gradually builds in waves of increasing intensity and synthesizer noises that finally lead us to the epic closer of disc 1, Margate Train, a song that is full of memories that are exposed as the track continues. This is a very emotional song that deals with a mind full of memories that have surfaced, uncalled yet ever present in the singer’s voice and mind and that have gone away seemingly forever. The main refrain and synthesised strings return to close the song out on a very bleak line as the guitar reverberates away to silence, a remarkable track by any standards.
Disc 2 continues the journey, opening with the upbeat You Are The One I Love, probably the most straight forward pop song on the whole album and a very effective and memorable song too. Astrology speaks about free will and precession and predestination, Jack sounding similar to latter day Ian Gillan at times on a song that is lyrically challenging.
Summer is another short instrumental track segues into the song Stand In A Place Of Love, another angst driven acoustic outpouring that talks about Nietzsche (the German philosopher) whose influence on thinking and writings on good and evil were used by the Nazi party in the 1930’s and 40’s, especially that of a superior race of men.
An Ordinary Man is a storming mid paced rocker that really surges along with a propulsive guitar line running throughout and a propensity of urgent drums, really there’s a lot going on here musically that combines make this a really rather fine song indeed. The next track, You Will Kill The One You Love, features an accordion alongside more standard instrumentation and this gives it a unique organic sound that is very full and interesting. This leads into the penultimate track, Autumn, another brief electric piece with shimmering guitar chords played in an arpeggio style and a reprise of The Look Of Love lyrics alongside stacked vocals, all done to great effect.
The final track and the final station on our musical journey is Video Games, a reworking of a track by Lana Del Ray that Jack has taken and rather electrified making it more like a Miles Davis piece replete with some heavy guitar lines and a driving backbeat. He uses clipped vocals to add punch before expanding it into a more mainstream delivered song with acoustic guitar. It this quite well known song a distinctive spin from the more recognised original.
Video Games closes the album in style and proves that it was worth the wait and also worthy of your time and consideration. As I said its not an easy listen but stick with it and you will find the treasure that lies at its core. This is a sensational piece of work and I heartily recommend this masterpiece to you all, it may not be progressive as such but the craft that is on display here makes this album worth all the plaudits that it gets, so dive on in, the water is lovely.
Released 20th March 2020
Order the album from bandcamp here: