Hookworms / Virginia Wing – A Reflection
Yorkshire five piece Hookworms have managed to become one of the UK's most essential acts by adhering to a couple of basic rock rules. Rule one – make good albums. Their 2013 album Pearl Mystic was quickly followed up by The Hum last year, plaudits rightly lavished upon both. The other basic rule is to be good live. Hookworms can do better than that – they're incredible live.
First up though is the support act, London trio Virginia Wing. Analogue synths and shoegaze fuzz accompany the cool and detached vocals of Alice Richards while the insistent beat of drums give each them a propulsive kosmiche edge. Battered synthesisers and the memories of dusty 60s' girl band 7"s add inviting feminine edge to their sound.
It's pretty blissed out stuff but when the guitars start to thrash, a psychedelic element is introduced, while the likes of their tracks 'Meshes' and 'World Contact' are ice cold slices of minimal krautrock. Their soon come debut album Measures of Joy is certainly worthy of an ear or two. Fans of Stereolab, Ladytron and Client will LOVE these guys.
Not many bands would dare to start a packed out gig with an 11 minute wig out, the first half of which is ambient build-up before it breaks into thrilling, ultra vivid shades of psych, but Hookworms do with 'Away/Towards' and the audience is immediately theirs. The double whammy of 'The Impasse' and 'On Leaving' quickly follow. The former is even more furious and spittle covered than the recorded version, while the latter shows off their knack of using rhythmic, metronomic beats to make something hypnotizing and, although dark, manages to be totally uplifting.
MJ is a fascinating front man, hunched over his bank of keyboards, then thrashing against them as if they were trying to drag him inside, his guttural scream as on record is way down in the mix for most of the gig, making the voice just another element of sound. It makes for captivating viewing because you have someone going through visible stages of angst but barely making a sound, like having the stereo on at the same time as a muted TV.
'Hotel Tokyo' is welcomed by a now throbbing mosh-pit as if it were a number one classic, while 'Off Screen' manages to put much needed water on the fire with its druggy low-paced bliss. Normally a ‘slowie’ amongst such a visceral set would result in a mass exodus to the bar, not here, the audience are glued to the spot, all locked into some kind of transcendental moment.
They close the set, as they do on The Hum, with 'Retreat', a kind of belligerent song of celebration in the face of adversity. No adversity here, just the best band in the country losing their shit.
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