Tom Hingley loves his job. Clearly. But while it may seem to many that earning a crust from your music isn’t really a job, Hingley has certainly put in the graft. His career, and life for that matter has certainly had its share of ups and downs. But like he told us back in 1994 on I Want You, nobody said this was gonna be easy.
The son of an Oxford University professor, Tom Hingley grew up in relative affluence in a large family. However, his father’s routine of sleeping all day and working all night meant that Tom had to find something quiet to do. So he made music. Quietly. Soon coming to idolize John Lydon of the Sex Pistols and Echo and The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, he ventured North to study in Manchester. There, he got a job collecting glasses at the legendary Hacienda and formed his first band Too Much Texas, before joining Inspiral Carpets in 1989. After six successful years, the Carpets split, in which time Tom founded The Lovers, released some highly acclaimed solo albums, rejoined the Inspirals, then quit or was fired, depending on who you listen to.
The last full length release from Hingley came in 2013 with the remarkable collection of acoustic tracks Sand and its sister album of full band reworkings Paper. But it seems the last five years have certainly given Tom something to say. And I have to say, it was worth the wait. Produced by Gary Hadfield at BluePrint Studios, I Love My Job is an immensely personal album. Filled with equal parts tender emotion and blistering vitriol, it explores themes that a lot of artists either shy away from, or rarely touch with the raw authenticity as this record.
Opening with a tolling bell for the loved ones Tom has lost, the anger and frustration of death is addressed in Black Light. Told from the viewpoint of the reaper of souls, it’s a powerful vocal performance with a pounding beat and buzzsaw guitars. It’s also punctuated with a percussive sound like breaking glass and high pitched chimes which I didn’t feel sat well with the track. Before putting (digital) pen to paper on a review, I always give a record a minimum of three passes. Once in the car, once through speakers and once through headphones. It didn’t feel right through any medium and led me to believe I’d forgotten my seatbelt, left the fridge open or was being burgled at various points.
The driving riff of Glory Days drops into a great melody where Hingley revisits his time as pivotal member of the Manchester scene. It’s good to see a musician of advancing years, who presides over a glittering back catalogue, not constantly telling us their best years are in front of them. Glory Days is Hingley’s ode to the scene and cameradie of the tour bus. Unlike a lot of artists, it seems he can love and embrace the past while simultaneously looking to the future.
He connects with the punk influences of his youth on revenge anthem Bullet and the brilliant Toy is Sex Pistols with a spoonful of Howlin’ Wolf. There’s light to the shade with Beautiful Girl. A song of love to his daughter Mabel that’s a bright, feel good tune. It’s backed with the strings of Pete Whitfield and harks back to the days of The Hollies and The Small Faces when melody was king. There’s some great moments of incongruity on the album too. Prodigal Son is a driven stomper of death and regret backed by a beautiful string section and Nasty People starts with a Nashville country feel only to be punctured with “I’m gonna torch your car“
The social injustice of modern life is skewered on Beggars Hand and White Sheep. Where Hingley denounces the shameful homelessness epidemic plaguing the streets under an austerity government. His voice standing up for those who feel shut out of opportunity, oppressed by banks ‘too big to fail’ and held to ransom by privatized utility companies that engage in exploitation of the vulnerable. The closing track Shining For Somebody Else bravely takes on the subject of depression and suicide, a subject close to home having tragically lost Inspirals drummer Craig Gill a couple of years ago.
I Love My Job approaches its lyrical content with a confidence, reverence and perspicacity that is becoming increasingly rare. You also can’t help but feel this was a cathartic record to make. Sonically, its not over produced and lets the guitars, bass and drums do as much of the talking. It’s great to see artists like Tom Hingley making forward thinking music with a relevant message, without feverishly grasping the past. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another five years to hear more.
I Love My Job is released September 7th on New Memorabilia and can be ordered here.