On their third album proper, Hookworms have found their way to pop. Not that it’s been entirely absent from their work, but up until now the band has let a prevailing wind of noise and a frantic energy steer the rudder of their sound, burying the Easter Eggs of pop below the horizon line of their mix. Considering that the band’s driving force, MJ, has practically carved out an arm of UK indie around his production, it’s always been intriguing that he’s saved some of the more palatable touches for those under his studio wing (Martha, Menace Beach, Joanna Gruesome, TRAAMS, Pinact). However, on Microshift he’s taken the band to much catchier climes, leaving behind almost entirely the crusted foam of The Hum and Pearl Mystic.

In place of that foam he’s embraced the insistent chug of Krautrock and a swooning clarity that brings melody to the forefront on a permanent scale. At first, I blanched on this 90-degree shift. Admittedly I’d often found Hookworms endearing for their love of noise and their seemingly defiant shun of clean lines. It often felt like the band was signed on MJ’s promise as a producer and that any label looking to pony up was always hoping this was a turn the band would make. Now that they’d conceded to pop, it seemed time to shout down the cave in.

But the more time I’ve spent with the record that seems premature. Times change and the noise-pop wave that Hookworms crested in on and help foster might be on the wane, though I’ll always hope that noise-pop has a permanent place in the indie pantheon. So, it seems that the band should evolve. Stagnation is bad for the blood, bad for any artist. They’d done what needed to be done with the sheet of static and now they’re playing with the studio as sixth man. There still remains a hangover of experimental impulses and MJ and the band fold them into what works out to be a pretty solid indie record, though it’s one that’s not shredding the dominant paradigm so much as its trying to stretch it from the inside out. Here’s hoping they keep pushing.

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