Back in 2012, a fledgling label in Bristol came across a band and put out Gymnophoia, a 12-inch EP, which garnered the attention of 6Music and XFM and quickly sold out. In 2013, the same band put out a double A-side 7-inch which also garnered rave reviews and sold well. For that year's Record Store Day a split 12” EP that featured Spectres, Oliver Wilde, The Naturals and today’s heroes was released, which also sold out and passes for silly money whenever it rears its head online or at record fairs. The label was Howling Owl, which has gone from strength to strength and even found time to have a public spat with Record Store Day. The band was Velcro Hooks, and until last year they’d gone strangely quiet.
When a new band stops releasing for a bit, a long absence starts to look like the band is over. However they’ve now returned. So where have they been? In Bristol by all accounts, building their own studio and recording a debut which is has just seen the light of day.
Velcro Hooks is 40 minutes from a band that knows they have something to prove. They want to prove those early critics right by releasing an album that improves on their early promise. They want to show that Howling Owl was right to sign them in the first place and have faith in patience in them while they went away. More importantly, they want to prove to themselves that they are the real deal. Luckily they’ve succeeded on all fronts. Velcro Hooks is that rare breed of album that showcases a group of musician’s ability to craft songs that don’t just sound amazing, but have the capacity to get under your skin if you let them.
‘Leaves’ gets the party started in fine form. Droney, sitar-like guitars swirl around like mini cyclones, pushing their notes through your hair, head and clothes. You’re left in a dizzy heap on the floor, but before you can recover you’re hit in the face with the next track. Lead single ‘Severing the Mind’ opens with squeals of guitar feedback and distortion. ‘Severing the Mind’ is a three minutes through indie pop, motorik, garage rock beast, but it’s not all noise and confusion – there are subtle layers of melody and harmony, and the lyrics are part nihilistic/part hopeful to the future. ‘Chinchilla Woman’ starts with a choppy Nineties guitar sound that bobs and weaves about, until the full on pop chorus. It’s rumbustious and laden with adolescent charm and intrigue. ‘Mid of May’ follows on the heels of ‘Chilchilla Woman’ with wonky surf guitars and poignant lyrics full of romance and redemption.
If any song sums up Velcro Hooks, ‘Molly’s Revenge’ is probably it. Opening with an elongated Eastern guitar wail and lackadaisical strumming. It slowly builds and swells until it finally breaks and a genuine indie pop track emerges, albeit layered with feedback, noise, confusion and rangy lyrics all dressed up as part of the current Sixties revivalist movement. ‘VCR’ closes the album with melancholy vocals and sweeping woozy guitars. Velcro Hooks have shown that they can write belters and song full of noise and fun, but here they show their softer side full of brooding intent and meditative longing and wistful looks, culminating with the angst ridden killer lyric “I only want to watch TV”.
Unlike a lot of comebacks, Velcro Hooks lives up to hype you’ve created in your own mind. Listening to this debut you remember the original feeling you felt when you first heard 'Girlfrien’ and 'Galaxy Police Club'. It fills you with a youthful abandon and makes you want to rush out to your nearest live venue and see some kids wail on their instruments for half an hour.
9Nick Roseblade's Score