Heartworms Share New Single and Video '‘Retributions of an Awful Life’
Words by Chiara Strazzulla
Anyone who has been keeping an eye on the highly inventive and prolific alternative scene in London should by now be familiar with Heartworms.
Photo credit: Camille Alexander
With an unforgettable and rather retro stage presence and a sound that blends together industrial rock, lashings of electronica, and a number of goth suggestions old and new (think both Bauhaus and the Horrors), Heartworms – the chosen stage name of singer-songwriter Jojo Orme – never refrained from being ambitious and experimental. Now, with a forthcoming EP announced for 2023, latest single ‘Retributions of an Awful Life’ is much more than simply an enticing taster of what it is to come: it sounds, and reads, like a challenge. Both pop and guitar music seem to be going through a patch of increased uniformity, at least as far as the charts are concerned; Heartworms goes in the opposite direction, and does so boldly, with a track that is both blunt and refined, rough in sound and sharp in lyrics, and defiant throughout. In spite of its title, it feels more like a gauntlet thrown down – at an increasingly standardised industry, and possibly at an increasingly complacent audience – than a musing over challenges faced.
"I wanted to imbibe a new pain, bring to life punishment, fight fears while abiding relentlessness with my friends by my side." - Jojo Orme
There is much to be loved in this track for those who are prepared not to let themselves be intimidated by the unexpected. The vocals are sharp and acerbic, leaning onto the precision of the lyrics with confidence, with the same kind of almost-spoken delivery that often injects an element of performance art into Heartworms’ live shows. For those who have been lucky enough to attend one, it is not hard to visualise Orme’s striking stage presence as she almost declaims the opening section of the song into the microphone. A hefty backbone of dirty synth propels the track forward, summoning the same kind of unsettling atmosphere that is also conveyed by the accompanying music video, directed by Niall Trask. The scratchy guitar sound, full of sharp angles and occasionally courting dissonance, is almost pure industrial rock; the rhythm overall is relentless, sucking you in as you listen, leaving no room for breathing until the very end.
Watch 'Retributions of an Awful Life:
It is a stark, energetic, demanding song, a very far cry from the all-too-easy listening of contemporary indie rock, but also from the hyperactive quirkiness of much of the post-punk servings of the alternative scene. Deliberately rejecting everything reassuring, ‘Retributions of an Awful Life’ demands that its listener embrace their sense of unease, pushing their own boundaries just as far as Orme herself has clearly pushed her own in the production of both song and video. It is far from frequent to see an artist take such bold risks and make such challenging decision this early in their career, and all the more striking because Heartworms does so with such precision and efficacy. Powerful and unsettling, this single is a clear declaration of intents – approach it at your own peril, but with the awareness that the reward (or the retribution?) for listening with an open mind will be great.
Heartworms in 2023:
18 Jan | Eurosonic Festival, Groningen
13-18 Mar | SXSW, Texas
22 Mar | Green Door Store, Brighton
23 Mar | The Lexington, London
24 Mar | Dead Wax Digbeth, Birmingham
25 Mar | Yes (Basement), Manchester
27 May | Dot To Dot, Bristol
28 May | Dot To Dot, Nottingham
2 Sep | Manchester Psych Festival, Manchester
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