CD and LP giveaway, details at end of review
out October 6th
In every single review I’ve read of Hockey’s debut full-length, Mind Chaos, countless other bands are referenced as influences. LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, MGMT, Black Kids, Billy Joel, Vampire Weekend, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Rod Stewart (don’t know what those last two critics were smoking). I love all of those artists, and at times I love Hockey. But right now, the band sounds too mashed-up, “too fake” on this first record to be labeled a great group just yet.
That doesn't mean Hockey hasn't created a really good album. Like any debut is supposed to do, Chaos shows off the band's strengths, its weaknesses, and its room for improvement. At times, tracks veer off into laziness, in other instances they build towards a non-existent hook or chorus. But overall, Mind Chaos is a solid debut record that demonstrates Hockey's potential- a truly fun listen and introduction to a growing new band.
Mind Chaos has definitive, standout tracks that shine: notably “Too Fake” and “Song Away.” “Fake” has the vibe and attitude of a James Murphy track (especially the muttered "whatever, talk to ya later"), and grooves along with an original punk-dance attitude. While it delves into a rather cliché chorus, Grubin's voice still has enough genuine enthusiasm to keep it from sounding corny. "Song Away” is ready-made for a commercial (in fact, I believe it's already in one), and while it shouldn't be much more than your average, catchy pop song, Grubin's hopeful lyrics and the band's surging delivery make it great, a cut above the rest.
However, as good as "Fake" and "Away" are, those two standouts carry on the lack of audacity that the entire album holds. "3AM Spanish" is really a mood-killer (especially placed so early in the album, the number 2 track). You don't really feel like dancing or bopping your head, you just feel like pushing skip. The beats and dynamics are there, but the addictiveness of the two singles is not. Such a sloppy, low-key downer shouldn't be on an album like Mind Chaos that thrives off the band's energy.
Songs like "Curse This City" and "Work" continue to show the band's ability and talent, but also show that there's room for improvement. "City" grooves along with the funkiness of a Spoon song and rocks out when it wants to, but doesn't quite have the hook it needs. It also, much like the rest of the album AND like Spoon's ill-fated tracks, goes on for a little bit too long and slips into laziness. "Work" is also a slow-mover. Definitely a catchy tune, it also becomes lazy and drifts away over the course of it's five minutes.
"Preacher" is much more impressive, starting off with the church bells and crooning vocals of a Cold War Kids b-side, then finding its way into a rocking refrain with a lot of soul and boppiness. It also has a memorable chorus, as lead singer Benjamin Grubin asks the preacher if he could "save his soul." This is one of the tracks where Hockey really shows off their talent, and the type of music they could and should always be making.
"What's Up Now Man" is also impressive, the album's ballad, if you will (along with the also relatively impressive closer, "Everyone's The Same Age"). With soft piano and a swinging, retro beat, and led by Grubin's soft and soulful voice, it serves to demonstrate the best of Hockey's ability.
There's nothing bad on Mind Chaos, and there's definitely a lot of good- REALLY good. On certain tracks and in certain moments, Hockey shows that they have the potential of a great band. In fact, the only real reason I'm not in love with this album is that it could be better. Tracks that could be brilliant drift off, unfocused. A sophomore album with more "big-time music" tracks like "Song Away" could catapult this band from random clothing commercials to big indie rockers. For now, Mind Chaos remains a fun listen, and at times a great listen, but nothing that's going to be on repeat. It has nowhere near the maturity and depth of a debut album like Vampire Weekend's or Fleet Foxes'. So while Hockey clearly demonstrates their potential on Mind Chaos, they also show that they have a long way to go.
To enter to win a copy of Hockey's Mind Chaos on vinyl or CD format (a total of two winners), leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, this review, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until October 6th