Tom Hickox has a voice that comes from the centre of a mountain, something that is given great airing on his second album Monsters In The Deep. Whilst it never seems fair to comment on someone’s background, he does have an impressive musical heritage, an upbringing that has clearly given him great confidence and gravitas.
Despite his ‘man in the woods’ appearance, Tom Hickox is introspective and articulate. So, ‘The Plough’ is not about returning to the land but about the constellation. On this acoustic track, Hickox is revealed as a dreamer but one who is seeking the highest beauty right here. Looking at the stars, he ponders life and its laws. On ‘Man Of Anatomy’ the piano is undercut by a searing electric guitar and then an unnervingly low note reminiscent of the one in ‘The Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ when the aliens are trying to communicate with us.
For all its contemplations, Monsters In The Deep is a very earth-bound album. The locations and scenarios are very physical ones: ‘Istanbul’, ‘Korean Girl In A Waiting Room’. Hickox is a romantic traveller with a well-worn knapsack but one who has an intrinsic understanding of what it feels like to want to go back home. On these tracks, the piano and the drums act as an accompaniment to the stories.
The latter half of the album is considerably heavier, as if Hickox has drunk himself into a depression. It is last orders in ‘Collect All The Empties’. This song is orchestral and cinematic in scope, John Barry on a heath. To be fair, though, Hickox’s voice needs very little backing to make it moving. ‘The clifftops are heavy with thistles and gorse,/The call of the ocean with love and remorse’ is typical of the rhyming couplets on Monsters In The Deep. ‘Mannequin Heart’ and ‘Perseus and Lampedusa’ are similarly soul-bearing. They talk of ‘marigolds’ and ‘swallows soaring’. They are like being buried alive under very rich humus.
‘Monsters In The Deep’ itself is decidedly uptempo. Hickox sings, ‘I’m a monster, you know that.’ He must be the least fiendlike person I know. If anything, Hickox is Frankenstein’s monster before he is transformed by human barbarity or a placid underwater creature avoiding detection and cruel hooks. The fade out at the end of the song is him swimming away into the dark depths where the pressure is too much for ordinary humans.
The album’s title could be interpreted in so many different ways, indicative of the profundity of the music. Tom Hickox is a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, all of which is communicated through a rich reverberation of a voice. He is a man searching for a deeper truth.
Monsters In The Deep will be released on 31st March through Family Tree/Warner Chappell