Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo Records)
Hotly tipped psychedelic rock / noise band Hookworms have been turning a few heads of late, in part due their debut album Pearl Mystic. Louder Than War’s Steven Fanning has been checking it out to see what all the fuss is about.
Psychedelia has had a pretty good innings. Looking back some fifty years or so, the sound of psychedelia and the emergence of the drugs that altered the consciousness of an entire generation continue to reverberate down the years. Like many musical subcultures, it didn’t really go away, nor did it lie dormant, other things simply rise periodically to the fore for a while before the next wave. The past few years have seen the influence of psychedelia seeping into the musical landscape again, from the stoned drone of Wooden Shjips to Sonic Cathedral’s recent Pscyh For Sore Eyes split 7” EP, there’s renewed interest and a host of new bands to take this latest wave on.
Mention psychedelia to your parents and it’s all stories of LSD, flower-power, Haight-Ashbury, the Jefferson Airplane and bearded men in leather Jesus sandals. It was something for the then older generation to feel totally at odds to, perhaps not frightened of but something they were entirely unable to comprehend and consequently intimidated by and isolated from, which runs in contrast to the sense of unity and togetherness that modern history recalls amongst its protagonists. The psychedelia of today is a different beast, It’s perhaps more a malleable sonic aesthetic rather than a countercultural way of life driving a wedge between young and old.
Hookworms’ debut album Pearl Mystic arrives at a time when psychedelia is a part of many different things. It’s coursing through the garage punk of Ty Segall’s seemingly endless slew of album releases, infecting the jingly-jangly indie-pop of Temples or providing the bedrock for Hookworms textured, droning and reverb drenched soundscapes. Album opener ‘Away/Towards’ comes in at a hefty 8:50, building from wavering guitar feedback, the drums crash in as intensity rises through vocals, distant in the mix, but insistent still. The sound fills out and Hookworms dynamic approach to constructing their songs becomes all the clearer.
There’s hints of Bobby Gillespie in the vox, and more than a dash of Wooden Shjips and White Manna throughout ‘Form and Function’. It’s not all about pounding, pulsating basslines and wailing, powerful guitars though, ‘In Our Time’, ‘Since We Have Changed’ and ‘What We Talk About’ are more restrained, calmer, emotive even. The trilogy of instrumentals ‘i’, ‘ii’ and ‘iii’ work some way towards breaking down the DNA of the music, the fabric from which it is constructed around. Layers of noise, veering between gentle and undulating to the more brutal and abrasive, make up the dark matter.
In another age, this could’ve been psychedelia for the punk generation, but arriving today amidst a glut of pretty-boy indie and sadly omnipresent vacuous pop, it’s a glorious breath of fresh air. As mainstream music becomes yet more formulaic, it’s refreshing to hear a band simply doing their own thing without really caring what anyone else thinks about it. They’ve recorded this in their own studios, and released it on Gringo, a small label based in Nottingham whose DIY ethic Hookworms relate to. They’ve influenced themselves through their own experience, fingers crossed their influence now spreads too and the start of something exciting – this long rumoured guitar revival (though, to be honest, guitar music has never gone away if you know where to look for it ) – has begun in earnest.
All words by Steven Fanning.