Hookworms go macroshift with Microshift

MicroshiftMicroshift is the third album proper from Leeds five-piece Hookworms, following on from 2014’s The Hum. For those familiar with their oeuvre up to this stage, it will represent something of a sea change.

Their previous work functioned most effectively as a live experience, interlocking loops reaching feverish crescendos that strained the edges of the one’s comprehension of what pop music is supposed to do. This didn’t always carry too well onto record – feeling a bit indulgent an if we’re being honest, a little dull. Oh sure, some good chin scratching was to be had, and perhaps those more given to the peaks and swells and other trappings of psychedelia might have been able to see something that the casual non-paisley shirt wearer could not (sorry, I don’t know what psychedelics wear these days, do write in and tell us).

Microshift is more like macroshift (sorry) in terms of ethos. What we have here is a collection of very good pop songs – somewhat tinged with psychedelia, but with melody as the driving force. It recalls The Stone Roses or The Happy Mondays, or even Supergrass (“Static Resistance”) in its cartoonishness, Can in its mechanically-inspired and generated repetition, Flaming Lips in its eccentric warmth (“The Soft Sea” and “Each Time We Pass”), and Kid A/Amnesiac-era Radiohead in its stylised caterwauling (“Boxing Day”).

While it’s ostensibly a pop record. If you pay close attention to any given moment in any song, you can quite hear what is essentially a very carefully controlled elegant chaos of noise. Think a less wilfully obtuse Animal Collective – one who doesn’t want you see (hear) the working parts unless you want to see them. The manner of its construction is something like a mosaic or an impressionist painting – you only need to step back and let it wash over you.

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Perhaps “Opener” is the best example of this – the separate electronic lines fizzing and stuttering, but with an overall effect of cohesion. In this piece, we also see a key example of how lead voice man MJ’s (they all only have initial names – but I suppose when you’ve made an album like this, you’re entitled to your affectations) vocals have risen to the task, a certain soft power in his performance, a robotic quality somehow warmed with human feeling, cohering perfectly with the bent of this record.

This has the all the hallmarks of a mainstream breakthrough – and certainly one that is deserved by their sheer level of accomplishment here.

Expect to see this bothering a few end of year lists…

Release: 2nd February 2018, Domino Records

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