Hookworms‘ third album “Microshift” is a massive step forward–a shift from the band’s potent and hallmark kraut-guitar rock to delve deep into propulsive synths and electronics with further vocal focus on melody. The results are a staggering and welcome revelation.
Forget everything you know about Hookworms. Ok, maybe not everything; the urgency and viscera both live and on record that led the Yorkshire, England-based five-piece to prominence across two blistering full-length LPs – 2013’s “Pearl Mystic” and 2014 follow-up “The Hum” – remains. However, as they return with their much-anticipated third record “Microshift”, the title of the record connotates more than just the intended nod to the audio plug-in their vocalist MJ regularly uses; it could also be an understatement of a three-year narrative that’s brought about changing circumstances, influences and subsequent evolution.
“Microshift” is a record that largely pulls back the dense fog of guitars and Modern Lovers-esque blasts of organ that have become Hookworms’ trademark, replaced instead by a plethora of electronics and synthesizers. New variants on their use of motorik sees drummer JN working around drum machines on many of the tracks, while an increased focus on melody is most notable in MJ’s vocal delivery, now shorn of the Space Echo that drenched it previously. “After eight years of being a band we couldn’t just make another psych rock record” says the group’s MB.
There’s far more to “Microshift” than just rock band going electronic however; indeed, the fact it’s here at all is a relief after a series of setbacks for the band. Most publicly, the minutiae of the US visa system caused the expensive, last minute cancellation of an American tour, while on Boxing Day 2015 the River Aire floods in Leeds devastated MJ’s Suburban Home Studio – not just the rehearsal and recording space of the band, but home to the producer’s livelihood itself. The band are quick to point out that the incredible response to a GoFundMe campaign and the subsequent help of volunteers over several months to rebuild the studio from nothing is a huge part of the band’s continued existence. Striving through this as well as relationship breakups, family illness and the death of the band’s close friend and live sound engineer, it is perhaps no surprise that the record is one of both defiance and darkness.
“All our records are to an extent about mental health. Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy.”–MJ/Hookworms