Hockey - Mind Chaos
Record Label: Capitol
Release Date: October 6, 2009
There may not be a universal recipe for hipness like there is for those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kiss on top-- seriously, don't they always taste the same no matter who makes them?-- but Portland's Hockey pretty much personify it. After all, what could be more trendy than their sound, which takes The Strokes' New York post-punk and refracts it through an electro-dance prism? A healthy dose of self-awareness is also required, and they have no shortage of that, as evidenced by "Too Fake," the lead single and opening cut from their full-length debut Mind Chaos, on which singer Benjamin Grubin admits that gaining acceptance doesn't come without the necessity for pretense. Despite sounding a bit resentful of this fact, he seems helpless to change.
Given its title, one might imagine Mind Chaos to be a difficult record, but it's designed for easy consumption. Take, for example, the contagious "3 A.M. Spanish," which sounds like the work of a rapping Julian Casablancas fronting Scissor Sisters. "Discotheques don't start 'til three," Grubin sings, but it's okay, because Hockey is ready to keep things moving all night. "Learn to Lose" has the feel of Trust-era Elvis Costello reworked for the 21st Century, like "Clubland" with an overblown distorted guitar solo. "Work" slows things down a bit, but doesn't skimp on the danceability, delivering a pre-disco '70s R&B vibe.
Like the aforementioned opener, "Song Away" is similarly self-conscious, with a line like "this is small town music, this is big town music," and for the most part, it's accurate. The tune is almost Hold Steady-ish in its suitability as a soundtrack for high-fiving, but seemingly makes fun of this very fact. "I want to write a truthful song over an '80s groove," states Grubin in the song, and that's exactly what it is. "This is believe me music, this is forget me music," he continues, and he's absolutely right. It's a fun, upbeat number that's right for every occasion because it's self-referential and not really about anything at all, though for the same reason, it's probably best relegated to background music status.
The electronic effects take a back seat to brash guitars on "Curse This City," which bumps like a Franz Ferdinand hit, and on "Wanna Be Black," whose angular, clanging fretwork might make "Wanna Be Hot Hot Heat" a more apt title. "Four Holy Photos" has a few blips, but also mostly eschews electronics in favor acoustic guitar and harmonica, giving it a distinctly country vibe that would have made it something of an odd duck on the album, were it not for the New Wave-meets-gospel mash-up "Preacher."
Like "Song Away," "Put the Game Down" is a more conventional pop-rock number driven by a repetitive guitar line, and it probably carries its single idea on a little too long, a little surprising for a band that's displayed a short attention span thus far. "Everyone's the Same Age" ends the album in a slow, pensive manner, a welcome change of pace on a disc that's otherwise brimming with energy.
With their debut LP, Hockey serve up a series of raucous jams, and while the hodgepodge of styles might be reflective of the "chaos" in the album's title, the band aren't too proud to wear their influences on their sleeve, and the result is anything but chaotic. It's mostly simple, mindless fun under the guise of smart pop. Mind Chaos is a little uneven and not totally satisfying, but that's forgivable because it's so damn entertaining.