Brain Candy (Farmer & The Owl/BMG)
Interesting timing for Hockey Dad, arriving a few weeks after a band with what Kerry O’Keefe might call a different action but a similar trajectory, DMA’s.
Like that Sydney trio, Hockey Dad play guitar rock that holds itself between the urge to go hard and the temptation to go home, and the conflict, as much as roots in the ‘90s, defines them.
For DMA’s that involves a dose of the swaggers and a countervailing insecurity buried in imitation; a yen for the big stomp with beers in the air but a not so secret need to have an arm thrown around their shoulders and told they’re alright really.
In the case of Windang’s finest, Billy Fleming and Zach Stephenson, it’s a power trio hiding inside the duo, but also a chilled bunch of surfers hanging about; an unshakeable love for the sweet pleasures of a pop tune tied at the ankle strap to a straight ahead revival band.
If you haven’t seen my review of the DMA’s let me say upfront that while this isn’t a competition – and both bands would hate this comparison being made - Hockey Dad are simply better. Not finished yet, not able to sustain their highest points on this, their third album, but certainly showing a growing comfort with juggling their impulses and channelling their influences.
The ’90s coursing through Hockey Dad’s veins is decidedly local rather than, say, Manchester (though Itch gives itself over to Seattle wholeheartedly): more like the one You Am I oversaw as a generation of bands came in their wake. So Germaphobe pumps up a drawling melody over a sustained chordal base, the chorus the simplest but also easiest to catch part of an already straight-legged song; Tell Me What You Want has a dab of keyboard in the background for flavour, but the guts of it is the quickfire rhythm section and the clean slashes of guitar; Milk In The Sun cruises through its changes, throwing up a slightly trippy middle eight, but mostly sticking to a swaying rhythm that reminds me most of The Clouds.
There’s plenty more like that across the album, brushed with tunes and appealing presentation, where Dole Brother is a shiny suit away from modern glam, I Missed Out is like an effervescent teen on the second best night of his life, and Nestle Down has a sweet sweet heart in its razzed up guitar pop, so much razzed up guitar pop so that if you told me it had originally come out on the Murmur label I’d be inclined to believe you.
But the tracks which might get to you first are the ones where the pedal is pressed a little further down. For example, Good Eye sweeps up its melody by two minutes in but the real hook is the heavier tone of the guitars established in the first few seconds, just before the drums offer reinforcements.
Most immediate of all, In This State mashes Marvelous 3’s LA-in-Atlanta shwing, a touch of Sonic Youth’s circularity (true!) and just enough of a heads-down-hair-swinging blast of Tumbleweed to kick of the album with a snort.
The flipside to this is the album does somewhat peter out, an inability, foreshadowed earlier in the record, to maintain the peaks playing out. But that doesn’t obscure the fact Hockey Dad had done pretty well before then though.