REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Tom Hickox - Conductor’s son performs a sorrowful aria

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

North London singer-songwriter Tom Hickox comes from a musical family. His mother was an orchestral timpanist and his father a renowned conductor. Having initially rejected his classical background for a diet of Pinter, Beckett and Rock and roll, he appears now to have found his own path.  His album War, Peace and Diplomacy is now released on Fierce Panda.


Tom Hickox - War, Peace and Diplomacy (out 10/03/2014)

Here are nine radio friendly tracks that you can’t help but like. He lacks self-consciousness in mixing styles and his vocal sounds different on every track; think Walker, Cave and Cohen. Apparently Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner was a huge influence on the singer who has since supported him and this album harnesses his mentor’s talents and accompanying band. The debut single is perhaps a paean to Gormley’s Angel of the North, ‘the king of birds.’  His deep baritone is underpinned by lamenting organ and string sounds. The Pretty Pride of Russia tells the tale of a young woman's dreams of a better lifestyle in London – ‘the perfect place for me to be adored.’ The vocal is reminiscent of Gene’s Martin Rossiter with an air of Morrissey’s illusory conceit. On the lovely, ‘Out of the Warzone,’ Hawley’s delectable slide guitar is a welcome addition to a warm song that contrasts with the assumed hauteur of the last one. ‘Your baby was asleep,’ is a menacing lullaby that is so stripped down you can hear his breath.  This track wouldn’t be out of place on Jeff Buckley’s Grace. For me the standout track is ‘White Roses Red,’ a brooding aria with heart rending violin stabs. Here he manages to mutate into David Sylvian. ‘You will open lilies on your bed. Blood will colour white roses red.’ This is just on the right side of full on drama.
The sombre ‘Let me be your Lover,’ is a piano-led love ballad that appears to be backed by a brass band. This leads us into the tale of ‘A Normal Boy,’ who takes a radical religious path. Ascending chords make it like the finale of a musical. Confessional in the extreme, he experiments - it doesn’t always work. If you like John Grant you’ll love this. In 'The Lisbon Maru' an old seaman orates to a cynical young pub crowd about his part in naval history. ‘Somehow I’m here with your beer and cheap remarks.’ 'Good Night', is an anthemic piece that builds to a triumphant finish. It concludes the album as emphatically as if he’d belted out ‘My Way. ’ Hickox is certainly not a pretender.  He possesses the confidence of someone who grew up with music and later discovered his own storytelling.  Valiant lyrics are swelled by piano, brass, strings, and woodwind. As such these are songs that really should be heard live. They definitely warrant further investigation as they are not what they seem initially. He is as serious as a Shakespearean thespian but don’t let that put you off. These divergent fictions with their swirling emotions will grow round you like a creeping vine. 8/10