Hookworms – Pearl Mystic

hookworms-pearl-mystic I’ve been a while reviewing this, given the album actually came out in early March, but it’s taken a few listens to get into it, to be honest, and I don’t feel any great need to rush reviews out just for the sake of, as you’re probably aware by now.

Pearl Mystic, for all I was hugely looking forward to it, definitely gave me that Highly Anticipated Albums Fear, where I was nervous I might not like it as much as I was excited about hearing it for the first time. It’s different, too, and that definitely took a bit of adjustment. Their glorious self-titled 4-song EP, long since sold out, had bite to it; a real sense of aggressive edge, reinforced by a nasty side to the recording, something which you know I love.

Matthew Johnson, a member of the band, who I believe recorded that EP, has since built a highly respected career and studio at Suburban Home Studio in Leeds. I don’t know if the difference in sound is because he has simply become better at his craft over the last couple of years, or if it is simply that the band wanted to change their sound a little, but where once growling, krauty drone dominated, now there has been a shift to a more grandiose sense of swirling, krauty psychedelia. The difference isn’t huge, but it is nevertheless significant.

What caught me off guard about this album was that instead of snapping at your ankles like a chippy little dog, it explodes with what I suppose can only be described as glorious bombast.  And yet, for all that, it’s subtly done too as for an album which feels so huge there aren’t all that many moments on it where the band genuinely open the throttle and absolutely launch themselves at you. In that sense it is what you’d call a Proper Album. The music meanders along with moody keyboard swirls, almost as if it were smoking a post-coital cigarette half the time, so that by the time it gets really big it’s such a release that you feel like punching the air and leaping around like a fanny.

Lyrically, the vocals are so drenched in delay and reverb that I have absolutely no fucking idea what they’re on about. It sounds great, but there’s no sense of narrative in the words, which is sort of odd for an album with so much in the music.

There’s just so much control evident in this record, particularly for a relatively young band. I know they’ve played an awful lot in the last year or so, and I promise you I have tried to get them up to Edinburgh (current dates here), but it’s still impressive how tight the album sounds. It’s sprawling and broad perhaps, and doesn’t worry at all about delivering a tight, three-minute pop song at any point, but there’s nothing messy about it at all. But again, the overall feeling I get from it is gleeful triumphalism. It’s as if the album is bursting with optimism for some reason, perhaps as if the band knew they had something this awesome in them, and are just excited for us to hear it. They should have been, too – the first run sold out at the pre-order stage, and it’s only now that it’s being re-pressed.

It may have taken me a while to adjust to the slightly different vibe of this new stuff, but now that I have, I can tell you this really is very good indeed. At this rate I think I will end up just making my Best of 2013 list in June, because honestly, there’s been so much good stuff early this year that I don’t think the rest of it is going to be needed at all.