Release Date: Nov 11, 2014
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock
Mysterious Leeds quintet Hookworms released their excellent debut album Pearl Mystic to great acclaim just 18 months ago. Full of infectious, space-rock swirls and krautrock meets psychedelia beats, the record was, according to guitarist SS (they’re known only by initials in case you didn’t know), written “to an audience in the same way your diary has an audience”. The success of the debut was, therefore, wholly unexpected by the band itself.
After Hookworms released their self-titled debut EP in 2011, MB, the band’s bassist said: “The hookworm is a parasite that lives inside its chosen host, sucking blood and damaging the small intestine, and can occasionally lead to death if not treated or attended to properly. We’d like to think that our music works its way into our ‘hosts’, and grinds them down from the inside, bludgeoning them into submission with repetition and noise. ”It proved to be a prophetic statement as the Leeds five-piece went on to release ‘Pearl Mystic’, last year’s excellent album, on tiny-but-respected Nottingham-based indie, Gringo.
Hookworms' debut, Pearl Mystic, was widely feted—our friends at Drowned in Sound named it Album of the Year—so interest is high the second time around. For most fivesomes made up of 20-somethings, the pressure and weight of expectation could be stifling; for this Yorkshire band, the opposite is true. .
Hookworms' balls-out, no nonsense approach to music is very much a breath of fresh air in an increasingly tame and polished music industry. The Leeds-based five piece are known only as JN, JW, MB, MJ and SS in order to ensure a focus on the music itself, rather than any personalities within the band. Not that the music needs any attention drawing to it – 2013's Pearl Mystic mercilessly battered you around the head in a haze of guitars and largely indecipherable, piercing vocals.
On their second album, 2014's The Hum, Hookworms still haven't done much to become user-friendly. They still go by their initials (MB, MJ, JN, SS, and JW, in case you're keeping track), the album cover is mysterious and lacks any identifying words, and their songs are similar to their first album, Pearl Mystic, in that they are raging, unwieldy slabs of noise and energy that almost seem to be holding on for dear life, kicking and screaming, as they are forced into the listener's ear canals. As in the case of that album, the sensation here is not unpleasant.
From Animal Collective to Youth Lagoon, modern psychedelia often seems to derive its palette from the hallucinogen-blurred, childish whimsy of Syd Barrett. Textures are piled atop one another in an attempt to obscure whatever actual songwriting is going on, imbuing these artists' music with an intentional haziness that, at its worst, devolves into directionless detours. This isn't the case with Leeds quintet Hookworms, given their preoccupation with both anonymity (the band's members all go by their initials) and forceful urgency.
Hookworms have gone a little bit pop for their second album. That’s not to say they’re set to collaborate with Taylor Swift on her next full-length – there are many kinds of pop music, after all - but there’s a definite pop persuasion to ‘The Hum’, anyway, in the same darkened, menacing sense as Suicide or Spacemen 3. Debut ‘Pearl Mystic’ might be a ludicrously daunting act to follow, but by progressing onwards from the murk of their debut into a cleaner, snappier territory, Hookworms have managed to remain thoroughly the same band, without a hint of stagnation or water treading.
Christmas has come early for psyche, freakbeat and space-rock aficionados: following the acclaim of their 2013 debut Pearl Mystic, the second album from the devout DIY-band Hookworms is a structured and refined barrage of noise and veiled melody; a six-track record with three instrumental intervals (or rather moments of respite, in the form of disconcertingly quiet drone-based ambience) stuffed into just 35 minutes. Tough and burly like their ear-bludgeoning former record, tracks like The Impasse and Beginners emanate an energy so febrile and frenzied it’s the sort of devil rock you’d imagine parents from the god-fearing right ought to protect their teenager’s ears from. Where the group from Leeds’ impressiveness lies is in their lighter, less mangled moments however; the groovy, gothic disco of On Leaving, or Off Screen, a sprawling song heavy with a feeling of melancholy; their most shoegazey, Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-moment yet.
Though they currently enjoy international distribution through one of the biggest indie labels in England, Hookworms insist their group is nothing more than a hobby. The Leeds psych-punk band is but one of many musical pursuits its members currently partake in; they’re still self-managed; and they’re bewildered by the sight of strangers around town wearing their t-shirts. And as the ultimate act of self-effacement in an era of easy Googleability, Hookworms insist on being identified only by their initials.
It’s hard to find a problem with Hookworms’ newest album, The Hum, but not because it’s flawless. Far from it as there are a number of major structural missteps on the album. But because what works about it works so well, it’s a shame to pick at it. When the album is on, it is on. Witness ….
Hookworms relish anonymity and mystery. The Leeds/Halifax five-piece are rather characterless in their quest for precision and poise, forging a steady wash of atmospheric neo-psychedelia with a darkly hypnotic thrust. There’s no way to clearly denominate their intent through their echoey, indecipherable vocals, though they counteract that by fostering sheer blasts of organ-led stompers with expressive, spiraling guitar leads.
A Leeds-based band whose members hide behind their initials, Hookworms are five former punk aficionados who have transferred their loyalties to feverish space rock. Their past is still apparent on The Hum, their second album, whose opener, The Impasse, is all distorted riffs and roars. They are far more interesting when they let in some light, most notably on The Hum’s standout, the simmering Retreat.
Leeds five piece Hookworms’ debut of eighteen months ago quite rightly had many plaudits lauded upon it, for within its mixture of drone, shoegaze, psych, hardcore and post punk, there lied a furious rage lost within the structure of pop music. The subsequent months since said debut have seen them turn into one of the UK’s must see live acts, and with their second long player, their first for Domino Records offshoot Weird World, they seal the deal in recorded form. Band members are still only known only by their initials, an anti-attention, anti-star stance that's a typically Leeds attitude, and Hookworms are a very Leeds band: feel free to get involved, but don’t be a dick… you have to be from there to understand.