MARCH: Microshift – HOOKWORMS

Sometimes you enjoy a band, but you know they could be so much more. And you will them into becoming that thing, and so often, that just doesn’t happen. They plough the same furrow with decreasingly fruitful results, until, by album three, you feel something die inside you and you know your relationship with them is over.

I’m always keeping an eye on the local music scene in Leeds. It’s not a bad scene and it always has some bands worth listening to, but often they peter out before they get going. I first noticed there was a bit new psyche thing going a few years ago, and some of it actually seemed really good. At the forefront of that were Hookworms. They’ve made two really solid albums, the first building on the first and expanding its sound. But they were solidly PSYCH albums, sounding something like this:

I’d seen them live and I’m partial to a bit of Krautrock, so it was right in my wheelhouse, but they are REALLY good live, and a lot more punky that you might think, but they weren’t exactly inventing the wheel (to complete the wheel related references). I remember thinking, rather fancifully like a twat, that they were ‘Austerity Psych’ – psych rock channelling the anger of our era in a Northern city.

And then an absence of a couple of years. And then, a month or two ago, I hear THIS on 6Music:

And my mind is blown. THAT is Hookworms? Sweet Jesus, yes. It’s Hookworms having babies with New Order, LCD Soundsystem and every other slice of dance rock heaven you could ever imagine. Everything has gone widescreen. The lead singer, MJ, one of rock’s more unlikely looking lead singers, has no longer hidden his voice behind acres of reverb, and wow, he actually has an amazing voice. The ANGER and the punk attitude is still there (this is, after all, about depression and dealing with the death of a friend), but what a canvas to paint it on.

And then came the album, and the fear that this one truly amazing song would be sat amongst a load of psych songs of old, standing out like a sore thing. Not a bit of it. STATIC RESISTANCE is probably the closest thing to Hookworms of old, but even that has crispness and urgency to it that really stands out. It’s a GREAT Track 2:

It doesn’t let up from there. ULLSWATER is another banger, to rival NEGATIVE SPACE, as is OPENER, which feels almost joyful. And then there’s the other surprise – the soft, almost balladeering underbelly of a band that with hitherto all hard Krautrock beats. THE SOFT SEASON is sweet and moving, and EACH TIME WE PASS is, well, actually quite dreamy!

I think this a major piece of work. It works totally as an album and a vision, and it’s rewarded me every time I’ve played it.

Finally, can we talk about the sequencing? Brother Joey, I know it’s a bugbear of yours and mine when a good album is badly sequenced. Just how beautifully sequenced is this? ULLSWATER as a Track 3 basically says – yes, the whole album is as good as this. And then THE SOFT SEASON is that sudden blast of tenderness that opens out the whole album’s palette. And at the back end, SHORTCOMINGS has got to be the best closer to an album I’ve heard in a long time. It’s up there with my favourite songs on the whole thing – James Murphy would be proud of that one.

It’s only March but I can’t see this not being one of my albums of the year.

So yeah, sometimes those bands you invest in do reward you by turning into something much bigger than you’d ever imagined…

5 comments

  1. whyohwhyohwhy

    This is a really great choice Brother David. I’d heard of them tangentially before now, but saw them as a bit of a Northern Jagwar-Ma lite, but you’re right that this is a different proposition. I think the LCD thing is there in programming, some sounds, but to me at first glance of the album it’s more like Friendly Fires and The Rapture, certainly vocally. There’s some double tracking, and also octave separation, which I’m a sucker for.

    So yes, a really promising start. More of this soon.

  2. misterstory

    I don’t want to be the naysayer here as everyone seems to be loving this. While I do not dislike this at all, it’s not exciting me like you guys. I love ‘opener’. Like, I really love it. It will appear on my best of ’18 list me thinks. There is so much of this track without vocals that I think it may be the vocals that I am struggling with on the rest of the album. I made a comment previously about its very obvious Britishness and I am not sure if that is part of my problem. I can’t put into words, particularly written what this is about so I think I should think a little more (I can hear David growling with anger at that comment all the way across the Pennines).

  3. misterstory

    So, I’ve not really developed much more on this one. When I listen to it I find it a pleasant listen. But nothing pulls me towards it. I’ve probably given this much more time than other AOTMs that didn’t light a fire so I am totally un-offended by it. I still have muchos love for ‘Opener’. I can imagine this one grabbing me at some other point? Perhaps after hearing a track unexpected on the radio or seeing them live by accident or something?

  4. nolankane706

    Apologies for the delay on this. I’ve been really trying to get into it as I thought I was missing something but I think with me as it’s not me it’s Hookworms. I do say this with a pinch of salt as I do lie them, but I don’t think they have got me as much as they have done for others. The remind me a bit of Sunshine Underground. Negative Space is a good song, and the others at the start of the album aren’t bad. After that point the album fades away a bit for me and I struggle to stay interested. In the albums defence I have been mostly listening to it in the car and perhaps I need to listen to it in another environment. I’ll keep on cracking on with it though.

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