Hookworms – Microshift Album Review
Hailing from Leeds, England, the five-piece indie rock band known as Hookworms has been releasing music since 2013. Despite having five years of experience under their wing, Hookworms has yet to gain any substantial commercial success. Their debut and sophomore efforts, Pearl Mystic and The Hum, established the band’s focus on melding noise rock with psychedelia. These albums gained critical acclaim across numerous publications, but widespread popularity with casual listeners was yet to be found. With 2018’s Microshift, however, Hookworms have finally taken a big step in reaching the mainstream.
In what certainly seems like an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, Hookworms focuses less on noise and distortion, putting more emphasis on combining the listener-friendly synth-pop genre with space rock. Overall, the results are pretty astonishing. Microshift is a solid record that appeals more to the average listener thanks to its synthesizer-heavy melodies while staying true to the psychedelia that Hookworms originally set out for.
The album opener, “Negative Shift,” is an obvious choice for a lead single, despite its nearly seven-minute run time. The song starts off slow with a minute of simple synthesizer loops but eventually develops into a full-blown pop-rocker. The heavenly driving vocals, pounding drums, and ever-prominent keyboards build up, climaxing with a short but delightful guitar solo. After belting out a few more lines in the falling action, the song comes to a close with the same synthesizer loops that began the track.
In somewhat of an homage to the classic psychedelic rockers like Pink Floyd and Genesis, the album’s tracks blend together as if it were one continuous song. As such, “Negative Shift” blends into “Static Resistance,” which continues the synth-pop vibe at a faster tempo. Again, the heavenly driving vocals, pounding drums, and ever-prominent keyboards are maintained throughout “Static Resistance,” yet it manages to be completely unique from its predecessor. And it’s undeniably catchy, too.
The two opening cuts are the highlights of Microshift, but the quality doesn’t drop off much from there. “Ullswater” is one of the album’s heavier tracks, thanks in part to its closing guitar jam, and “The Soft Season” is somewhat of a simple synth-pop ballad. The first half closes with “Opener,” which runs for eight and a half minutes, yet surprisingly never outwears its welcome. A close listen reveals an obvious callback to the album’s first two songs.
For those who prefer Hookworms’ more obscure work, the second half of Microshift is the treasure trove. “Each Time We Pass” is certainly more ambient than any of the previous five tracks. Casual listeners may not be prepared for “Boxing Day,” the record’s one true psychedelic freak-out. Pink Floyd fans will notice the influence of tunes like “Astronomy Domine” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” in this one. The freak-out ends, however, just as soon as it began, as it’s followed by the soothing “Reunion,” which acts as a nice buffer to please the ears. Finally, the album ends where it started: with a synth-pop rocker very much in the same vein as the first two tracks, known as
“Shortcomings.” It’s a very nice finish to the twist and turns of the record.
Microshift appeals to both listeners old and new, which is what Hookworms was likely trying to accomplish. By having a good mix of synthesizer pop tracks and the original psychedelic sound, Microshift has moments that all can enjoy.
Of course, Microshift is not a perfect album. At times, it feels like it’s repeating itself, and a few of the songs contain too much filler noise in what seems like an attempt to extend the runtime. It’s a lot of minor quirks that keep this record from achieving its fullest potential, but if Hookworms can work out these little blemishes with later releases, they will have a bright future ahead of them.
So, will Microshift send Hookworms into mainstream appeal? It’s difficult to say. Although it’s unlikely that Hookworms will ever receive the attention of artists like Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Kanye West due to the relative unpopularity of psychedelia in this day and age, Microshift clearly indicates a step in the right direction. As a transitional album, it excels in creating a smooth evolution for Hookworms’ sound from psychedelic noise rock to progressive pop, and that’s exactly what they needed to have a shot at commercial success in the future.
By year’s end, it’s likely that Microshift will be praised by critics as one of 2018’s best albums, and with good reason thanks to the originality, confidence and emotion that it boasts. Hookworms might have a tough time appealing to mainstream listeners with how prominent their new ideas are in their music. However, if the band can successfully integrate their sound into the mainstream by continuing to deliver enticing, original material like “Static Resistance” and “Negative Space,” there’s a real chance for Hookworms to achieve the widespread success they desire, while still retaining the critical acclaim they’ve already earned.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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