Album Reviews

Cut Worms – Hollow Ground

(Jagjaguwar) UK release date: 4 May 2018

Cut Worms - Hollow Ground There’s something to be said for pure pop songcraft. The new Cut Worms LP features an embarrassment of riches as far as ’60s-styled pop goes – from the outset, you’re met with a featherweight barrage of Beatles harmonies, Kinks-y twang and the odd scuffed melody or five.

You’ll be able to tell within about 30 seconds whether this is the right thing for you: if you’ve ever yearned for the golden age of pop (somewhere between the Beatles in Hamburg and Sgt Pepper’s), then this will be a perfect fit.

Opener How Can It Be kicks things off with a gleaming guitar line slinking through a delicate acoustic haze – and Max Clarke’s beautifully golden croon. Then the rest of the record follows suit: Coward’s Confidence is the kind of broken-hearted teeny-bopper that you can imagine David Lynch getting down to.

The lyrics are suitably (intentionally?) vacuous – but it fits the overall aesthetic of the record. The early Sixties, when rock was still pre-Bob Dylan, were full of the kind of simple rhymes and diary-entry confessionalism that Clarke bestows on us here. Of course, he’s (apparently) drawn on Rimbaud and the Symbolists in the past – but that largely fades into the ether here. The songs, and lyrics, are more direct than anything from his previous release, Alien Sunset.

Album highlight Like Going Down Sideways hints at the mid-career styles the Byrds or the Stones stoned themselves into: country and blues. It’s a looser, freer sound that Clarke only hints at on the rest of the record. Another slight curveball is the odd, fairground Doors-y plonking of Mad About You, where a spooky crescendo drags the record into the present day. It ends the record with intent: this is an avenue Clarke can pursue on his next release, should the urge take him.

Artists risk an absolute mauling when they wear their favourite era as a Halloween costume for a whole record, but here, at least, the joy of an unknown nostalgia far outweighs the realities of the grim present.

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Cut Worms – Hollow Ground