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…
Long time since I’ve been as taken with an album as the new Hookworms album. As a local band, I’ve kept an eye on them for a long time (they’re FEROCIOUS live), and have enjoyed their heavy Krautrock workouts, but I wouldn’t say that either of their first albums have stayed with me that much.
All that has changed with the new album, Microshift. It’s a complete reinvention of everything they’ve done – suddenly full of wide open spaces, electronics and dance rhythms and MJ’s voice – which you suddenly realise is actually brilliant. I have been playing it to DEATH for the last week.
Bearing in mind this blog’s collective love for LCD, Hot Chip et al, I’d be absolutely astonished if there wasn’t a fair bit of love for this. I urge you to listen to the whole album in one go. It’s still an indie record, sure, but it has its eye on so much more than that.
I also love the way they’re using their sound to really dig at real stuff. This is about depression and the death of a friend and other disaster – and finding a way out of the other side. It’s compelling and really life-affirming. Again, James Murphy would be proud.
This is an absolute contender for album of the year for me, and yup, it’s only Feb.