Psychedelic- punk band Hookworms’ second album, The Hum, recorded in 2014 at Leeds’ Suburban Home studios, is a prime example of a band using their second album to hone their sound, whilst pushing it into bolder horizons. The louder moments roar with more intensity than those on their previous record, Pearl Mystic, and the more delicate soundscape based songs reverberate with more grace and clarity.
The opening track ‘The Impasse’, a two-minute psychedelic hurtle of a song that instantly asks the listener to go on along for the ride or get lost, demonstrates the flourishing confidence of Hookworms on The Hum. The shrieking distorted vocal of singer/producer MJ, the high velocity tempo and the manic organ playing instantly dares the listener to toy with this album at their peril.
What is more impressive, is the seamless transition into the mid-tempo build of the second song, ‘On Leaving’. This is one of the most underrated opening one two’s in recent memory, with both tracks showing contrasting sides to Hookworms’ sound while still managing to blend together seamlessly.
Ambient mood pieces ‘Iv’, ‘v’ & ‘vi’, serve almost as palette cleansers for the songs that proceed them. However, they are not mere fillers, they are atmospheric soundscapes that add to the mood of the album, ensuring that The Hum remains a cohesive and consistent listen.
‘Off Screen’ is a highlight of The Hum, at first, a slow burning atmospheric haze of a song, until guitars and organ cut through the murk making clear that Hookworm’s are masters of dynamics. Although comparisons are often made with space and psychedelic rock bands such as Spiritualized and Spacemen3, Hookworms are more comparable to LCD Soundsystem, with their ability to build songs from small parts into a glorious collective whole. Tracks such as ‘Beginners; and ‘Radio Tokyo’ showcase this gift, with the drums providing a solid groove, as guitar, bass and organ pull in and out of the tracks until they coalesce into an exhilarating pulse.
When The Hum ends, with the triumphant ‘Retreat’, you realise that you have been taken on a brilliant journey, one which could have become bogged down in overproduced haze, or mired in sludgy retro-fetishist dad-rock tropes. The genius of The Hum lies in Hookworms ability to walk this tightrope in order to produce some of the most thrilling and nuanced guitar music any band in the UK has recorded to tape.