Hockey is a brutal sport. Not only does it relentlessly taunt the ever present danger of smashing up your teeth or snapping your legs like matchsticks with wayward sticks/balls/elbows, it also knackers your back from having to scamper across the pitch like a doomed crab.
Thankfully, this four-piece from Oregon are a more enticing proposition. If you like your music served on a plate of indie pop drizzled with Flight Of The Conchords-esque flavours, that is.
Hockey’s influences are far-reaching, ranging from Bob Dylan to Wu-Tang Clan. Their debut album, Mind Chaos, opens with the slapstick disco-pop rhythms and floor-filling chorus of Too Fake. “I’ve got too much soul for the world!” howls vocalist Benjamin Grubin with a vocal style that falls somewhere in between The Walkmen‘s Walter Martin and Ima Robot‘s Alex Ebert. It’s a brilliant opener.
Unfortunately, the following 3am Spanish quells the opening goodness with its uncharismatic blandness, despite its myriad ’80s funk intricacies, while the Vampire Weekend-flavoured Work would be brilliant if it wasn’t so bloated.
Pace is rekindled by the dreamy verse and FM-ready anthemic chorus of Learn To Lose. Hockey are at their strongest when they shun the clever stuff and belt out hook-splattered floor-fillers. Wanna Be Black is another case in point, a song whose musical charm easily covers up the lyrical indiscretion “When I was young all I wanted was to be black”.
But they digress far too readily, as amply demonstrated by Four Holy Photos, a song that has such an enormous hard-on for Dylan that it could be seen from space. Likewise, the brilliantly sordid guitars and high-octane verse of Preacher conflict with its piano led chorus which is poppy enough to sound like it was written by that heinous Orson band who penned that god-forsaken chart-botherer No Tomorrow.
It transpires that it’s apt that Hockey’s debut has the word “chaos” in its title. It’s an album packed with ideas, most of which are good, but nearly all of which are conflicting. There’s very little cohesion, no constant that ties everything together. The net result is that everything just sounds a bit cluttered.
Hockey are not yet the finished article and are still finding their sound, but judging from Mind Chaos they’re having a bloody laugh looking for it.