Rock, May 2020

hfnalbum.pngJack Hues
Dawn Chorus DCRC015 (two discs)

Hues is best known as the singer in 1980s popsters Wang Chung, but his other activities include playing guitar in exploratory jazz group The Quartet and composing soundtracks. This double album is something else entirely, a meditation on love, loss and passing. It starts with an impassioned take on Burt Bacharach's 'The Look Of Love', with the rhythm section of Canterbury psychedelic group Syd Arthur and sampled strings that slowly veer into dissonance. A similar tension runs through the propulsive 'Whitstable Beach' and the seesawing cellos of 'Winter', and elsewhere jazz and folk elements permeate this strong set. Hues reckons it's the album he's waited 40 years to make and one can see why. MB


England Is A Garden
Ample Play AMP129CD (LP: AMP129LP)

Given the current state of the nation it feels apt that Cornershops' Tjinder Singh has re-emerged to cast a wary and satirical eye over proceedings. Since 'Brimful Of Asha' in 1997, Singh has had the knack of writing earworm melodies over simple chord sequences and this album is full of them, with freewheeling flutes jostling for space with sitars, organs, synths and samples. The title track is a pastoral instrumental, but on the stomping 'No Rock: Save In Roll' the guitars come across like T Rex meets The Faces. The mood is celebratory and even 'Everywhere That Wog Army Roam', a song about police intimidation, makes its point by being wickedly funny. MB


The Boomtown Rats
Citizens Of Boomtown
BMG 4050538592351

With its reference to 'tank top terrorists', the single 'Trash Glam Baby' comes across like the cartoonish older sister of The Boomtown Rats' 1978 hit 'She's So Modern' and makes something of a connection with their late 1970s heyday, when their punky art-pop then caught the zeitgeist. That could never be replicated, but their first album since 1984 is a punchy, entertaining affair. It's also surprisingly eclectic. We find Bob Geldof verbally jousting with the object of his desire on the bluesy 'She Said No', while 'Passing Through' is a poignant string-driven ballad and the track 'Rock 'N' Roll Yé Yé' comes across like a droll parody of a stadium rock sing-along. MB

Ren Harvieu
Revel In The Drama
Bella Union BELLA948CD (LP: BELLA948V)

Ren Harvieu's debut Through The Night went to No 5 in 2012 but the follow-up was delayed due to a life-threatening spinal injury. But this is a fabulous return. Her voice is animated and refreshingly direct and unaffected, with just a little Dusty Springfield smokiness, and she gets straight to the emotional core of the songs. She gives us a mix of classic song craft, written in conjunction with Romeo Stodart of Magic Numbers, and imaginative arrangements. These cover a lot of stylistic ground, veering from piano-based torch songs to big guitars and sweeping orchestral arrangements, culminating in the triumphant drama of 'My Body She Is Alive'. MB