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. Ironically, this means their singer-guitarist is known as MJ—a monogram he just so happens to share with the most famous pop star who ever moonwalked the earth. This accidental synergy should not suggest the two have anything in common (though this MJ’s past production work for the scabrous likes of Eagulls and Joanna Gruesome could surely earn him the title King of Slop). But it is emblematic of the peculiar duality inherent to Hookworms’ music: Approached from one side, their fuzz-swirled freak-outs can seem hostile, petulant, and deranged, but, from the other, they feel therapeutic, affirming, and joyously anthemic. The beauty of the band’s second album, The Hum, is how effortlessly they make the blitzkrieg and the bliss seem like complementary rather than conflicting ideals.
The Hum seemingly changes not a single console setting from the band’s 2013 full-length, Pearl Mystic, and dispenses similar dosages of gonzo garage-rock, scuzzy psych, and free-form hypno-drone. But The Hum fuses them together in a more holistic, satisfying way, with a perfectly flowing sequence that makes it feel as if Hookworms designed the record as a single continuous piece. Where the ambient interludes on Pearl Mystic felt like necessary pauses for the band to catch their breath, on The Hum they serve a more crucial, connective quality, melting down their road-running rave-ups and molding them into “Mother Sky“-high odysseys and opium-den comedown ballads. It’s like Thee Oh Sees attempting a punk-squat answer to Spiritualized’s Pure Phase: an omnipresent haze that solidifies into motorik propulsion and mountainous noise, only to dissolve into the ether and reformulate anew.
In interviews, MJ has been frank about his struggles with depression and the fact that Pearl Mystic was written during an especially bleak period following the end of a long-term relationship. Not that you could necessarily tell—his voice was often transfigured into the sort of echo-drenched howl favored by Ethan Miller during Comets on Fire’s Blue Cathedral heyday. On The Hum, he still sounds like he’s singing to you through the last payphone booth standing, but the more congenial qualities of his voice are amplified. (When he’s not screaming to make himself heard, MJ actually comes on like a young, hyper-enough Mac McCaughan.) And the few decipherable lyrics that cut through the clamor suggest someone who’s been in a dark place and is bravely facing the day for the first time in a while: “On Leaving” cruises casually atop a third-eye-opening organ drone en route to an ecstatic admission—”I moved towards the sun/ I figured it out!”—and a pulse-pounding, static-soaked finale; the swaggering closer “Retreat” peaks with MJ declaring, “I’ve got a reason to love,” before riding a speed-shootin’, light-killin’ groove into the sunset. They may have no career ambitions to headline Glastonbury, but fortunately Hookworms can’t completely conceal their desire to refashion anti-social, dirty-syringe psychedelia as a communal, ecstatic experience.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/14giTVL