ALBUM REVIEW: Hookworms – Microshift | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Domino

Released: 02.02.18

 

 

 

 

Image by Hollie Fernando

Given the circumstances surrounding its genesis, it hardly comes as a surprise that Hookworms’ third full-length is far from a happy record. With writing at a formative stage, the Leeds-based group faced disaster when leader MJ’s Suburban Home Studio was all but destroyed when the river Aire burst its banks during the Christmas floods of 2015. Their hub has since been restored and enhanced thanks to a successful GoFundMe campaign, but for a band whose reputation is built on a fierce DIY ethos the episode nevertheless came as a devastating blow, both psychologically and financially.

With such troubled origins and lyrics centred around themes of anxiety and depression, Microshift could quite easily have become a hopeless dirge – an LP dragged down in both outlook and quality by its unenviable context. It seems remarkable, then, that the end product is not only their most approachable record thus far but also one which infuses the band with fresh life, replacing the thick haze which characterised their early years with liberal dollops of synth and looping samples. On the face of it, it’s a departure far more drastic than that alluded to by the album’s title, yet in practice it’s a melodious facelift which feels uncannily natural; like a band deftly broadening their palette as opposed to keeping pace with current psych pop trends.

Perhaps the biggest development of all, however, comes in MJ’s lyrics. This is by no means the first time his words have focused on mental health issues, yet the openness offered throughout Microshift is truly striking – not least on cuts such as the Alzheimer’s-tackling Ullswater and the magical ambience of The Soft Season. And yet, despite Static Resistance’s talk of “facing down, feeling awful” and “false hope forever”, the record’s overall message is laced with positivity, refusing to wallow and instead setting about overcoming adversity. This mental approach shines bright when MJ declares “I found a way to love the world… I was wrong, I was wrong” on closer Shortcomings; a triumph of willpower that’s likewise culminated in Hookworms’ finest and most colourful work to date.

 

 

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