Say Psych: Album Review – Pearl Mystic by The Hookworms

I find it hard to think of any band who I have seen live more often over recent years than The Hookworms. They have been on the live scene in Leeds, where I have lived for most of the previous twenty years before my move to Sheffield last year, for a few years now. Strangely I have never specifically paid to see them, but have seen them support the likes of Wooden Shjips on a number of occasions, and at various festivals. I note they are supporting Pissed Jeans at the marvellous Brudenell Social Club on 4th July this year, a gig I am certainly looking forward to.

Despite this I have always found The Hookworms to be a fabulously exciting live band, and am always pleased to see them on the bill. They have noticeably developed their sound over the last two years and I was more than a little concerned that they would be able to convert their essential live sound onto record. I need not have worried since from the very first listen this is an exciting album that is both contemporary, yet permeated with the psychedelic sounds of years gone by, most notably of 1960s West Coast America.

The album starts with a hum which, for a moment could be the beginning of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dead Flag Blues but soon develops into what I can only describe as the bastard psychedelic son of The Fall, with MJ’s (the band eschew full names for the sake of relative anonymity) fuzzy vocals preceding an explosion of guitars and drums. The excitement is palpable as the track, Away/ Towards, reaches its crescendo. Preservation, too, is an up tempo number with Doors keyboards providing context from a very different vocal to Jim Morrison’s languid delivery. MJ is much more urgent, yet he is much further back in the mix, the voice much more as instrument, the lyrics seemingly playing second fiddle to the experience.

Form and Function, which begins in a way that I can only describe as T-Rex gothic, has a definite pop sensibility about it, something I had never really associated with The Hookworms until now. In Our Time, What We Talk About and Since We Have Changed are the sort of tracks, with their slow lolloping beats, that bring to mind  stoner rock at its best and just invite you to slow down and chill. The former two make me miss Primal Scream during their pomp, while the latter is an epic and beguiling journey through an other-worldly landscape with the constant drone of the bass accentuated by the crispness of a tambourine.

This is an album that is hard to pin down, and is all the better for it. It is saturated all the way through with layers of psychedelic guitar, and punctuated with interludes (named i, ii, and iii) of post-industrial soundscapes, which help to contextualise the other tracks on the album; and make this a varied and never dull listening experience.

For me The Hookworms have long been able to hold their own in a live setting with the best of the current rich crop of psychedelic bands; Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, The Besnard Lakes, Sleepy Sun, White Hills and, of course, Tame Impala being amongst my current favourites. Pearl Mystic, however, has transported them to the forefront of British psychedelia and I hope it gets the wider audience it deserves. Whether band members MB, EG, MJ, JW, and SS (not me) will welcome the extra attention that this will bring is perhaps another matter.

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