Alex Rigotti
20:00 28th July 2020

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Beloved Aussie larrikins Hockey Dad have returned with their third album Brain Candy, bringing classic garage rock spunk with a fresh perspective on life. After the success of their sophomore release Blend Inn, the Windang duo have taken some interesting turns from their summery, surf-rock anthems. With Brain Candy, Hockey Dad give us much to chew on. 

Album opener ‘In This State’ is an excellent reminder of how riotous Hockey Dad can get. The boys know exactly what they’re doing, combining charismatic vocal performances with gutsy drumming and a chorus perfect for concerts. This song is confident, but never arrogant; it’s the Platonic ideal for feel-good garage rock.  ‘I Missed Out’ is a similarly assertive follow-up, bemoaning the frustration of returning to life after rough times. Stephenson takes responsibility for himself whilst still acknowledging what he went through wasn’t pretty. Songs such as these can come close to tone-deaf pity parties, but there’s enough balance to ensure this doesn’t happen. And who can really resist a wailing guitar riff that’s this much fun? 

In the first half, Hockey Dad are indefatigable, never letting up on tracks such as ‘Milk In The Sun’ and ‘Good Eye’. They’re both songs that capture the sunny vibes that we love Hockey Dad for. ‘Good Eye’ in particular has some of the most gorgeous guitar tones on the album, accompanied by a pleasantly warm melody and a knockout vocal performance. Whilst ‘Germophobe’ is comparably boisterous, the chorus is too nasal and forcibly chanty to get into – but perhaps it translates better in a live setting. Nevertheless, these songs have a lot of potential to become fan favourites because of their charm and energy. 

The album swings in a totally different direction with ‘Itch’ which sounds like the antithesis of a Hockey Dad song. This marks the pivot to the slower songs, which show promise but are often leave an underwhelming effect. Stephenson’s performance on ‘Itch’ carries the song well, but it suffers from the same problem as ‘Germophobe’ – the chorus drags out for too long, veering into whiny territory, and it’s too repetitive overall. ‘Nestle Down’ contains some interesting melodies paired with some truly beautiful chords, but it’s let down by its overly simplistic lyrics: ‘Nestle down/Underground/Don’t make a sound’. 

The two weakest songs are sadly at the end – the sleepy ‘Reno’ and ‘Looking Forward To A Change’. The pacing on this album is particularly strange, seemingly saving all its energy for the first half, then gradually petering out as it goes on. This leaves ‘Reno’ in an awkward position, as it emphasises just how lethargic it is compared to the other songs. It’s also a bit strange to hear someone passionately singing, "let me be your walking bedside table", and these lyrics mar the overall enjoyment of the track. ‘Looking Forward To The Change’ isn’t a terrible song, but its placement after ‘Reno’ definitely reduces its quality. ‘Reno’ at least had some catchy melodies; the first half of ‘Looking Forward’ sounds especially dissonant and sluggish compared to its predecessor. The explosive second half came as a pleasant surprise, however, but I’m not sure if all the build up in pacing was worth it. 

There’s some bright spots on Brain Candy, though it’s missing the zest and wit of Hockey Dad's previous records. Whilst the new musical direction is definitely welcome, there needs to be some more points of interest in these tracks. Ultimately, it’s the structure of the album that is the biggest disappointment, fizzling out within five tracks and losing a lot of the rowdy energy it had so excellently managed to hold. 

Brain Candy arrives 31 July via Farmer & The Owl/BMG.

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Photo: Press