Virginia’s own Stephen Jacques has delivered the latest in an extensive discography, his 2021 LP Soul Hydraulics.
Known for his work under the moniker Box Of Moxie, Jacques’ output exudes the spirit of a man on a mission, even if the definition of said mission is an ever-evolving concept. On Soul Hydraulics, the singer/songwriter weaves effortlessly between aggressive and sensitive sonic territory, instilling in each number enough personality to imbue an entire record.
First-timers will likely discern Jacques’ distinctive vocal delivery before anything else. Coming across much like Leonard Cohen at his rawest during his Songs Of Love And Hate period, not a word uttered throughout Soul Hydraulics feels contrived. Filled to the brim with memorable lines, Jacques evokes Paul Simon in his perception of the remarkable buried beneath the mundane. ‘Yellow Flowers’ and ‘James River Swim’ serve as perfect examples, the latter representing the universal connection one can fortuitously stumble upon in the solitude of nature. These occasions, both incredibly moving and inherently private by nature, can never truly be conveyed to anyone aside from the observer themselves.
Musically, the album is varied but cohesive, incorporating everything from wirey electric guitar leads – ‘Come to Me Marie’ – to lush orchestral breaks – ‘Soul Hydraulics” – On the quieter numbers, Jacques’ ‘Diamonds in the Mine’ esque delivery is dialed down to a croon resembling that of Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan on the band’s softer undertakings such as ‘Disarm’ and Corgan’s well-known take on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide.’
Album highlight ‘JetFighterMan’ is a punk-infused trek through personal trials, family history, and the inconceivable nature of planning a life. Distorted vocals pepper decidedly effective piano and guitar bits that are buried at just the right place in the mix to optimize their effectiveness in the context. Memorable lyrics are flying left and right in this number, and if you lose focus for just a second you’re bound to miss a gem or two. Some highlights include:
“Why does it always take so much time? Carve a path and it’s only a mile. In the crosshairs of my life, I’d scream and shout with all my might”, as well as “In my life, I was always told ‘Better take action before you grow old”.
An LP that boasts the depth of folk music with the spirit of alternative punk, Soul Hydraulics succeeds foremost as a work of artistic expression, but never ceases to entertain. Soul Hydraulics is an inwardly-gazing, subtly smiling jerk of the wheel on the road of musical convention. The vehicle never quite hits the ditch but does manage to shake things up substantially enough to maintain the attention of its passengers for the bulk of the ride.
Artists Website: https://boxofmoxie.net
‘James River Swim’ – official video: