Review and Photography by John Bentley

Hookworms are a five-piece Leeds-based band who have been getting some great reviews and radio play (Radio 6’s Marc Riley being a particular enthusiast) and they are renowned for making a full-on racket. Tonight they are playing close to base at Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club and a good number of their fans have turned out to see them. It’s the first gig of their current tour, with the next one scheduled for their home city at Leeds Brudenell Social Club (reputedly their favourite venue) this coming weekend.

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

A brief support is provided by Game_Program, described (on his Facebook site) as “an ongoing exploration of pre-digital electronic hardware by Cowtown singer/guitarist and Hookworms/Nope drummer Jonathan Nash”. Mr Nash is clearly a busy multi-tasker and performs his set from a table full of electronic equipment on the floor at the front of the hall, before he takes to the stage as drummer ‘JN’ for Hookworms’ set.

Game_Program, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

Hookworms members are down-to-earth local guys who clearly dislike bullshit and hype and they are merely identified by their initials. Most prominent on stage is frantic bespectacled lead singer and keyboard-man ‘MJ’, whose bellowed vocals are largely unintelligible, not that it matters, as he uses his voice like an instrument much of the time. They all look like pretty normal guys and the members are said to regard the band as a bit of a hobby and don’t want to give up their day-jobs.

Wikipedia describes Hookworms as psychedelic / noise rock, Pitchfork says they dispense doses of gonzo-garage rock, scuzzy psych and freeform hypo-drone. All reasonable descriptions of the unrelenting and intense sonic assault emitting from the stage for the next hour. Clearly audible influences include the Velvet Underground (White Light White Heat period), US hardcore and the keyboard drone of Clinic and Stereolab.

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

The band plays in virtual darkness, with strobes and visual effects spilling over the musicians and onto a screen behind. The visuals create a disorientating effect and at times get a little distracting and annoying – particularly the eternally revolving human figures which I really started to wish would just vanish.

Their first proper album (2013’s ‘Pearl Mystic’) was exceptionally well received, apparently to the band’s surprise. But Hookworms seem to have moved on because we don’t hear any of that album tonight, with all the songs played coming from 2014’s ‘The Hum’ and the as yet unreleased new album ‘Microshift’ (due out February 2018). The band clearly has enough confidence to plough on with a set where half the material is from an unreleased new album. Or maybe they are bored with old material and just want to please themselves. The newer material seems to have moved away from the extended pulsating drone of much of ‘Pearl Mystic’ and the opening song tonight, ‘Negative Space’ (the lead track from Microshift), seems to sound more conventionally song-like, maybe slightly reminiscent of Arcade Fire.

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

The audience is very mixed, with both young and old and there is some serious freaky dancing. Hookworms are truly a force of nature and the set is very well received. Unsurprisingly the band hate fake encores and as the droning organ and pulsating beat of ‘Beginners’ (a key track from ‘The Hum’) fades away the band leave the stage, not to return. Some of the audience seem a little baffled and, thinking there might be more to come, they wait until the equipment starts to be dismantled and the lights go up.

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

Setlist: Negative Space; Static Resistance; Ullswater; RadioTokyo; The Impasse; On Leaving; Opener; Shortcomings; Beginners.

Hookworms, Hebden Bridge Trades Club, 24/11/17

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