Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hockey - Mind Chaos (EMI)

Already responsible for two of the greatest songs of 2009 thus far, there’s a wee bit of pressure for Hockey to live up to (in our eyes at least, and we realise we don’t carry quite the same weight as the NME but let’s face it, no-one reads that anymore either). So let us pop the Oregon new-wavers under the microscope to see whether their debut album is as brilliant as their singles would have us believe...

It doesn’t take long to determine that Hockey are a band worth getting excited about. In a climate where traditional rock ideas drown amongst dancefloor cliché, Mind Chaos demonstrates an effectual fusion of exceptional proportions. A sizeable dose of funk provides the main course, impressively melding with classic rock adeptness, whilst proudly gleaming with 21st century creativity.

The underlying house thud and nods to the 80s – responsible in no small part for the aforementioned superior singles Learn To Lose and Too Fake – continue throughout the majority of the album, but crucially, without riding clumsily on the coattails of the trite electro ‘revival’. It’s refreshing to hear influences rather than an out-and-out rehash, particularly when executed as successfully as on Mind Chaos.

The occasional foray into other flavours work equally well – the spritely hoedown Four Holy Photos; the melancholy closer Everyone’s the Same Age; and even Preacher, whose middle eight with its gospel overtones makes way for some big-haired noodling, is wholly effective and pleasingly unique.

Even the weaker moments of Mind Chaos – which, it must be documented, are barely noticeable – carry their own silver linings. Work’s lament of everyday life sees a need for metaphor normally reserved for Hard-Fi, yet its bored-by-design, fatigued feel actually proves incredibly effective in conveying the sentiment.

While perhaps sonically the differences are vast, it’s hard not to notice parallels with Kings of Leon – a band that quickly veered customary rock down a particularly sharp-angled road, to great effect. Admittedly, it’s an effect that it took us a good few years to appreciate, but Hockey’s vastly distinctive flair matched with a rooting in straight-up tremendous songwriting carries a very similar feel, and it’s safe to assume a number of Mind Chaos prime cuts will be the contrived choice of many an X Factor auditionee come 2011 and beyond.

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