ALBUM REVIEW // ‘Brain Candy’ – Hockey Dad

WORDS BY WILLEM BERGQUIST.

Australia’s favourite surf rock workaholics have returned, and the Windang duo have returned strong. Refusing to leave the rescheduling of tour dates to next year, or allow dwindling performance opportunities stir them, Hockey Dad have in the midst of all this chaos, dropped their 3rd studio released album ‘Brain Candy’(2020).

Kicking us into two energetically engrossing tracks, ‘In This State’ & ‘I Missed Out’ are filled with that friendly coastal energy that fuels the band’s ever-evolving sound. The mixing of Indie, surf, and punk has now been cranked and peppered with a psychedelic twist. The present themes of F.O.M.O (fear of missing out for all of you who don’t feel the obligation to cram every social event possible into your life) in ‘I Missed Out’. Dipping through the looking glass, they explore a parallel universe that stretches Stephenson’s voice over a fantasy in which they had never blown up and left their home town. It is a reflection of their hectic touring and recording schedule, being unable to see all of the good parts life has to offer and becoming disconnected from the people you were close too. 

But its counterpart “Good Eye” is a complete off-shoot, steaming towards an upbeat Oasis-like swagger in celebration of their 8-year long blast of Globe-Trotting performances and compositional Binges. Its lyricism is rightfully cocky and self assured, affirming into an alternative Aussie 90s capturing the essence of what the dynamic two pieces were engrossed in when they decided to go with their gut full pelt into music.

‘Milk in the Sun’ is a paradoxically chill track that grounds the listeners in Flemming’s rhythmic and fluid drumbeat, so they don’t fly away in the crazy haze cloud produced from Stephenson’s dreamy hooks. It is a testament to the bands experimentation in refining their sound. I don’t know who would want curdled milo but enjoy your new anthem freaks.

Producing again in the same studio as their previously recorded album ‘Blend Inn’ at Robert Lang Studios. The familiarity of the studio environment that hosted acts such as Nirvana’ Foo Fighters and Chains of Alice, has amassed in a grungier edge for the band. Never going to far as to overcompensate, an overwhelming sense of scale has been achieved by the implementation of bass and studio equipment to give a larger textual body to tracks like ‘Itch’ and ‘Heavy assault’

Speaking of ‘Itch’, this song is scratch at your heartstrings. In a forward marching swell of eerie hollowed arpeggiation, the song sways forward in uncertainty, drawing out the elements of Radiohead and Silverchair. The hollowed start waltzes across Stephenson’s vocals to the point of a falsely insisted statement of “I’m Ok” defiantly juxtaposed with the heavy chugging guitar and on the flow of intense overwhelming emotion, that shadows the full extent of pain. Pain that is drawn out from the heavy drum beats that slowly make a trickling bleed turn to a flood of turbulent lyricism from the bands most show stopping vocal performance yet. The song eludes to the pain we keep inside ourselves and our sometimes sad defiance to better or cure ourselves. In a simple submission to the feeling of being dead inside, no wonder the video illustrates a zombie apocalypse when such macabre themes are accompanied by an explosion of organs and layered melodies to create something truly cataclysmic.

‘Heavy Assault’ carries on sombre teeming with more drive from the damn crisp fill that lays down some more chugging guitar riffs just for good measure. This track being tasked to follow up the raw scale of ‘Itch’ defiantly feeds into an aggressive backlash of frustration to ever thinking of stopping.

The mood could only go up from here. However, with tracks like ‘Nestle Down’ returning to the similar tone colour as former track ‘Germophobe’. Both of these are fun, pallet-able tracks that are driven mostly by the upbeat drums from Billy and the  excellent interlocking of driving guitar chords that will have you off your feet and dancing away once you are finally able to crack open cold drink at your pre-planned Covid’s over party. 

That energy doesn’t stop however, as it’s paraded straight through to ‘Tell Me What You Want’ where that use of studio synth and underling bass shaking my house every time I listened to this song for the review. The call-and-response section at the end was a cracking belt of gritty anthem for drunk karaoke.

The classic Hockey Dad sound is found no better than in ‘Dole Brother’ which serves as a great reflection on the carefree nature of surf rock that dominated ‘Boronia’ and “Dreamin’” with a more mature lens and simply wicked guitar solo.

Keg’ dives into a country-leaning bop, with harmonised vocals and twanging guitar slides coupled with backing vocals and a doo-wop baseline. The track was written on the fly over a two week period as a snapshot for a pub in Bathurst N.S.W that was close to Fleming’s heart. It’s a spontaneous slow swaying track that eases us into the sweet melancholy hypnosis of reverberated major cords and tattering chimes of symbols that hiss across the milky fluid melodies that I would akin to the sweet allure of an oasis on LSD above a snake pit.

The closing of the album is supported by the lovely ‘Looking Forward To The Change’. A song that would fool you into thinking the album would close on a quiet drawn curtain of slow hums and melodic vocal harmonies that carry on this vivid dreamlike haze. Yet the lyrics, incorporate chords run downs underlying in the guitar riffs until about the 2:39 mark where the drum beats begin to repetitiously drive swelling and swelling as the chorded ostinato that  begins to draw louder like a blanket to a methodical driving instrumental flow that is supported by the onslaught of beats that structure the entire musical swell till the climactic crescendo.

The sheer atmosphere changes that occur within the setlist of the bands longest to date albums could seem juxtapositions at a glance, and you’d be right. But the careful consideration in the formation of the track list makes the journey a smooth ebb and flow rather than a snapping bungee. It’s real journey when ingested at a full listen through. Not only to mention its major tonal differences giving it the perfect ability to be returned to without feeling stale.

This Garage Rock band has opened the roller door to a new creative level and I can’t wait to see where the band will go in the future once they stop hand-delivering gift bundles across Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong areas.

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