Recently UK indie pop rock band The Hokum awoke a fresh wave of attention with latest single Mind Over Matter. It was one of those songs which just gets under the skin, into the psyche, and announced the band as one to pay closer notice of. That meant taking a look at their debut album Fools, Mules and Baggage… from whence the single was plucked. As enjoyable and infectious as the song was it is fair to say that it barely hinted at the adventurous variety and captivating enterprise to be found on the band’s highly enjoyable full-length.
The Hokum hails from Sheffield and emerged in 2013 and is centred round the magnetic songs of songwriting duo Jacob Stanley and Anthony Isaac Stone. As swiftly evidenced by the album, the band’s sound is a vibrant and warm blend of rock and indie pop but also merging in numerous additional spices such as folk and eighties new wave. It is an energetic mix with a swing, even in its seductive ballads, which turns the songs into little anthems of fun impossible to resist. It all starts with Gold Clock, a track which from an almost mischievous prodding of guitar turns into a striding slice of rock ‘n’ roll with stirring riffs and instantly inviting vocals. Bass and beats soon add their heavy lures as the song becomes busier in flavours and energy, stomping along with feisty textures and an increasingly bracing attitude.
It is a great start matched by the smoother swagger of Left for Dead. Opening melodies have a sixties air to their hues, a tone carrying on into vocals and the more power pop nature of the song. As its predecessor there is no escaping being wrapped up in its catchiness, feet and voice ready to comply with its reflective lyrical and musical temptation before it makes way for the blues balladry of Framed. Well we say the song is ballad like but with its folkish essences and tenacious imagination, the encounter simply takes ears and imagination by the hand for a magnetic dance of revelry whilst adding extra seduction with moments of mesmeric calm.
As great as the first few tracks are, they all bow down to the magnificence of Pigs. The first single taken from Fools, Mules and Baggage…, the song is an incitement which has the listener as vocal and fired up as the song itself. Its chorus is pure addiction, served well by the tangy hooks and melodic jangles which colour its way into the passions. Folk pop meets indie rock, the track bounces along with a scent of a snarl to its riffs, moodiness to its basslines, and unbridled persuasion in its contagious invention.
Thankyou has the unenviable task of following the pinnacle of the album and does so with its own caress of harmonies and melodies floating around another lively and charming sixties/seventies inspired ballad. Though it cannot match up to the previous treat, its lingering temptation and smouldering beauty ensures over time it becomes a potent offering just like the more unpredictable and compelling Six of One which follows. Rhythms jump around whilst the guitars send intrigue loaded twangs across the bows of the melody rich stroll. The fascinating song reminds of fellow UK band The Sons, but builds its own distinct identity with constant evolution and a stock of unexpected surprises in gait and imagination.
Next track Knives provides a potent presence though suffers from a raw distortion on the bass when it enters. Whether it is a flaw on the CD or production, it does a great song no favours, which is a shame though normal exciting service is resumed with Cheap and Nasty straight after. Rampant rhythms alone have ears and appetite licking lips, and even more rigorously once vocals and guitar bring their flirtatious swing and festivity to the increasing riot of creative devilry. The blast of blues guitar provides a layer of icing to the excellent aural cake, and the song another great twist in the increasingly impressive album.
Through the ridiculously addictive Duck and latest single Mind over Matter, the band ignites another fresh spark of pleasure, the first a blues/pop tempting equipped with fiery harmonica and bouncy hooks. As across the album, at varying times you get whispers of bands like The Kinks, XTC, and Split Enz to name a few, this song finding breaths of the first two certainly whilst the third is more inspired by Mind over Matter where guitars offer an electrified mischief whilst percussion and beats bring the addictive lures. It is the new wave nature of the hooks and vocal delivery though which provides the really irresistible heart of the outstanding song. As across plenty of Fools, Mules and Baggage…, there is a familiarity at play in the song which only adds to the enjoyment and creative drama, and helps the anthemic quality of songs to take even swifter hold.
The album closes with Monkeys, another thrilling eighties marked slice of punchy pop and new wave contagion with a slightly deranged imagination to its tantalising persuasion. It is a great end to an impressive album, both leaving a want for more and the need to press play again.
Fools, Mules and Baggage… will not necessarily come into your list of classics for the year but as a favourite it is a done deal, certainly once its fourth song starts its devilment.
Fools, Mules and Baggage… is out now @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/fools-mules-and-baggage…/id921949091 and most online stores.
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