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- War, Peace and Diplomacy by Tom Hickox
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Tom Hickox is here on Fierce Panda with an album. It's called 'War Peace and Diplomacy' and he's wearing a suit and he's not smiling and even before I put it in the CD player I can tell that he wants you to take him Very Seriously Please. Looking down the extensive cast of players you see names like Richard Hawley and Dean Beresford; examining the booklet I discover that he really doesn't smile at all ever and a glimpse at the lyrics shows me that he's tackling heavy issues in some of the songs too.
'The Pretty Pride of Russia' is a particularly strange one - essentially it seems to be about London, but from the perspective of an optimistic Russian girl about to be unwittingly trafficked into prostitution. It's an ambitious topic to approach and you feel like that's the point, although in his earnest ambition to be Very Serious and tackle Very Big Subjects, the appropriateness of a middle class white Englishman singing from such a perspective is a grey area at best and by the end of the song I feel very uncomfortable.
But perhaps that's the point and this initially soothing concoction is beneath the surface music of discomfort, maybe that's Hickox's grand ambition - there are several places on this record where Saint Scott of Walker is the first person in my mind, but Hickox doesn't allow himself to delve as far into self-sabotaging sonic artiness as that archduke of misery. In the end he seems to settle for a middle road between Walker and more palatable theatrical pop types like the Divine Comedy or even sometimes The National in the moody swirling dirginess of it all.
It's grand and ambitious and thought-provoking, that much is unquestionable, but is it likeable? I'd want to hear it a few more times before I answered that question.
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