Review Summary: This is believe me music, this is forget me music
This is who can love me you know, this aint no roxy music
This is new form music, this is old form music
When a group of mop headed, girl jean wearing, bandana sporting white boys along with Pedro from Napoleon Dynomite take the stage at a small venue in Portland what kind of music do you expect? Groovy rock with a dash of hip hop and rap thrown in? Maybe a bit of folk? Songs about wishing you were born black? How about songs that sound like they were sung in an all black church in the 1950’s?
I wasn’t expecting any of that when I saw Hockey open for... I don’t even remember who was headlining I was there for Dear and the Headlights. Hockey was the local band who, sadly, got a half hour slot to prove themselves. Which they did, and then some! After Hockey got done I often felt myself wanting to go back to that joyous half hour of moving bass lines, snappy vocals and raw energy. I was certain that I would make the effort to find out more about this band, their hooks had worked.
Mind Chaos, Hockey’s debut album which drops September 28th, is their first effort to capture this sound. Hockey attempts to reach into jazz, hip hop, rap, rock, dance and mash them together with influences like Bob Dylan and Queen and you get a play-doh concoction called Mind Chaos. Heading the album off, Too Fake
, set the stage as not only the album beginning but the band’s single. Electronic atmosphere and a heavy bass groove introduce the band and give us a feeling for the first half of the album. Ben’s voice slips right in with his freeform vocals casually laying over the beat. The chorus launches into a incredibly enjoyable blend of bleeps, synthesizers and anthemic vocals.
Ben’s vocal choices really make these songs pop. His vocal range isn’t huge, he’s no Jeff Buckley, he’s often pushing the edge of what he can do. The variety he throws into his vocal performance with such a small range is really astounding. He goes from tracks like 3am Spanish
, where he raps out verses and smoothly snaps out tongue twisting lyrics in the chorus then transitions to a bluesy ballad in Work
. This diversity in the vocal performance allows the repetition of lyrics in songs like Too Fake
without actually feeling bland or forced.
His aura of confidence is thrown in your face throughout the whole album. Lyrics like, “I’ve got too much soul for the world” are dropped here and there, making the songs a bit arrogant and cocky but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a debut album from a relatively young band it’s fully expected for the content to be full of pride and confidence.
While the whole band are above average musicians what stood out to me was the bassist. Probably had something to do with the fact that I was standing nearby the bassist during the show but I got to see everything he was doing. During the live show the bassist sold me, his lines were not highly technical but did such an amazing job at being unique and blending into the song. So many bassists straddle a line of being almost non existent or being annoyingly overbearing, neither was the case here. The album production really smothers the bass, which is a shame, had they brought it out a bit I’m sure it would have popped a bit more.
The album has a few tracks that hold it back some. Song Away
is a extremely generic formula and sounds like it could have been written by some typical pop-punk band. The lyrics are fun but the music is bland and static. Everyone’s the Same Age
becomes the expected “slow-end-of-the-album” song which displays a lazy vocal performance and watered down music.
Despite the skippable tracks I’m very excited for this band. They show a lot of promise in their upbeat, blues and pop blend. The tracks where they branch out show signs that they are experimenting, if not fully realized. Their live show will leave you sore from grinning. Be sure to check these guys out as well as be expecting big things out of them.