Stuart Ralston gets stuck into two solo releases from Inspiral Carpets former front man Tom Hingley – solo and full band – they’re both very special. Reviewed for Louder Than War.
November saw the release of not one but two albums from Tom Hingley. His third solo acoustic LP – Sand – is out now as is Paper, a compilation that brings together full band versions of his new songs with alternate takes and remixes.
Signaling a new beginning for Tom on more than one level, this acoustic long player is the follow up to 2009′s Thames Valley Delta Blues. Continuing in the same vein as its predecessor, we are treated to nine new solo compositions from the former Inspiral Carpets front man.
Heavily influenced by the birth of his daughter at the start of the year, an emotional Tom delivers a set of songs he can be proud of. A pounding baby’s heartbeat on Sand’s cathartic opener Leaving It All Behind is augmented beautifully by Pete Whitfield’s strings. He then showcases his ever-powerful voice on Soul High and Sometimes I Talk To The House before there is a change of style to the blues-y Dog Suit in which he features on banjo. Live favourite Landfill laments the inevitability of life but manages to stay upbeat. Tom is still unafraid of voicing his hatred of the current government and does so on the thought provoking New Slums before attacking contemporary pop culture on Suckcess. Cool slows the pace down a little before Nobody’s Friend (again featuring Whitfield’s superb string arrangements) ends the acoustic album. A fine collection of songs that is light years away from his Inspirals work and, for me, his best solo album to date. Credit also to Hingley’s co-producer and engineer Gary Hadfield.
Paper features long-time collaborators Kelly Wood, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley and – for the first time – Blair Murray (Twisted Wheel).
Rather than simply replicating the solo album, a majority of these songs are complete reworkings. The opening four tracks see Tom perform as a trio with The Fall legend Steve Hanley and drummer Blair Murray reinterpreting Suckcess, Nobody’s Friend, Soul High and Landfill.
Nobody’s Friend has a Lennonesque vibe and Landfill features some ace guitar work from Tom with a touch of Lydon on his vocals too. Steve’s bass has never sounded better. He certainly can’t be accused of going through the motions and on this he augments the songs superbly, often taking lead bass. Over the two albums, this quartet of tracks are the real highlight.
Tom may famously be on a never ending acoustic tour but his partners here work incredibly well together and it would be a real shame if the three of them don’t get together to take these songs on the road.
Kelly Wood joins the trio on Leave It All Behind and we almost have a Lovers reunion. Dog Suit sees Tom reunited with the Hanley brothers to great effect. The album ends with alternate takes and mellow remixes of Nobody’s Friend and Leave It All Behind.
Sand cements Tom’s reputation as an accomplished singer/songwriter whilst Paper showcases Tom the frontman, although given the solid contributions from his friends and family, it’s a real team effort. Paper may be the junior partner here but it’s a superb album in its own right and must not be overlooked.
The long wait for new material was worth it.