You know, the whole point of these “Bi-polar” reviews is for different points of view to be had about a single piece of music (and surprisingly not for you, the reader, to discover any less than obvious psychological issues with us Bucketlist writers,. Namely myself). If there was ever going to be a difference of a opinion towards a work of art, you’d think it be had by such an impossibly grumpy fuck as I, Jason Greenberg, compared to my dearest compadre and fellow composeur of opinions Shawn Thicke, who is essentially a wide eyed puppy smelling your asshole for the first time and truly believing it smells like a bed of roses (a quality of which I wouldn’t change for all the poutine in the world), but of course, the devil is always in the details isn’t it? This meeting of the minds is all about Windang, AU “garage rock” duo and their upcoming heavyweight release Brain Candy (not to be confused with the Kids in The Hall movie of the same name).
First impressions of this kangaroo couple (meant lovingly) on display for a stonking forty five minutes and nine seconds is that of an odd, but fun, amalgamation of different rock and punk cultures. Hockey Dad brings influences from unique and killer popular rock acts ranging from new school Flatliners to mid school Weezer and beyond. Elated and poppy compositions met with attractive vocal arrangements and banger grooves make for a good time. While this act consistently brings in a variety of moments that feel like a variety of established acts, all of it boils down to a relatively unique blend pumped out by two dudes which both lends to intrigue and stacks the odds against simultaneously. After much deliberation as to what this act sounds most like, other than honestly themselves, repeated listens finally dropped the proverbial apple on my head as memories of a somehow more stripped down Japandroids really shone through. Take what you want towards those references, where I definitely feel like the cumulative product feels a little skinny at times, but at the end of the day, these two marsupials most definitely know how to make a bopper.
“In This State” kicks off the record with a less pleasurable overdriven guitar tone (more than likely a studio faux pas more than a writing issue) but seamlessly drives the vibe to banger beach, and continue the road trip of boppery all the way through to “Germaphobe,” then a pit stop at ballad alley is made for “Itch.” Sadly, this pit stop overextends its stay in my opinion. Where I absolutely respect HD’s ambient abilities, their strength is without a doubt in the up beat, open road style tunes, which is where the majority of their writing diversity can be found. “Tell Me What You Want” lends the notion that this act can successfully dance between both inflections, however, from that point the album slows to a creative monotony. Forty five and nine definitely doesn’t sound like too long of an album when crunching the numbers, but one aspect that Brain Candy definitely hinders itself with is the inescapable drag factor that can be found after track five, making for a little less than half the record without a major captivity factor to drive those numbers. This is without a question a fun and truly enjoyable record, but definitely too heavy on the filler and excess fat. Ultimately, I can’t see myself giving this record another rip, but this trip was without question worth the listen.
As you put it so eloquently, Jason, I am undeniably a puppy dog and as such, it is my nature to try my best to keep digging until I find the good in an album. Even though I was looking forward to reading an article where Bucketlist’s bitter old man chastises Bucketlist’s naive hippie-child, I have to more or less agree with you (Jason: The chastising can still be arranged my darling). As darned as I try, I can’t get overly excited about this record. Even though the roses please my nose, there is a slight whiff of dookie seeping through it all. Hockey Dad’s Brain Candy is far from offensive though. It is a banger for the majority of its run time. I almost immediately liked it upon hearing it, which rarely happens to me; believe it or not. Right away, I was reminded of late-90’s era Foo Fighters mixed with newer alt-rock acts like The Dirty Nil or Japandroids. Even though this concoction is delicious, it doesn’t leave much of an impression because ultimately those bands did it first and better. The last song “Looking Forward To The Change” is especially guilty of this. It does everything that an epic closing power-ballad should and yet it dissipates the second it ends.
It’s evident that Hockey Dad (gotta love that The Simpsons reference) are still finding their voice, and though I do hope they find it, I’ll go to bat for them as a solid 90’s throwback act. I think the first seven tracks are a blast from the past. The critic in me wants to chastise them for not being more original but damn it if nostalgia doesn’t take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine having heard singles “Good Eye” and “Itch” at the age of 8, while my parents drove me to my first day of third grade. Another part of Hockey Dad’s appeal is their uplifting, yet self-deprecating lyrics. Sure, Pup are alt-rock’s reigning champs of medicated humour, but these two blokes might be worthy of trading war stories with them. A lot of their songs, hell even the album’s title, refer to medication, trauma and the belief that they will overcome. Besides the last three tracks, they never let the subject matter turn to melodrama. Their ability to poke fun at themselves is never too far behind.
That said, like you, Jason, the last half of Brain Candy does little for me. Once again, Brain Candy couldn’t be more of an apt name for this album. It’s good and may even seem great when it’s on, but it is in no way a substantial meal (Jason: If that’s your way of asking me out, then we gotta work on your game). Though I liked the first half a tad more than you, I think it’s safe to say that neither of us will be consuming anything beyond that unless the band finds a more unique sense of style/flare and gives us a reason to remember them. Hockey Dad very well could be the next thunder from down under, but for now, they will have to settle for being a small patch of rain.
Written by Jason Greenberg & Shawn Thicke
*Edited by Dominic Abate