Hockey Dad – ‘Brain Candy’ review: Windang duo drop the scrappiness and go big

The band trust their instincts and experiment on their third album

There comes a time in every raucous rock band’s career when they have to move beyond making music for wild nights in the mosh pit or face a stagnant future. From Muse to Fontaines D.C., it’s evolve or die. After two albums of bristling surf-rock escape and chaotic anthems, Hockey Dad make the leap to a world where anything is possible on their new album ‘Brain Candy’.

Hockey Dad forget about genre on their eclectic, third full-length. From the grunge-influenced ‘Heavy Assault’ that sounds like Soundgarden meets Weezer, to the ragtag indie joy of ‘Dole Brother’, the Windang duo are ace whatever the flavour. “Give me time, give me money, give me everything that I could want. I’ll be the kind of man that you’ll all be talking about,” boasts Zach Stephenson.

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Opener ‘In This State’ is an energetic burst of fuzzy guitars and direct vocals, while the lyrics set the tone for the album’s more considered approach. “I wanna fill a space in your brain, wanna take up some real estate,” sings Stephenson, looking to win over hearts and minds. On ‘I Missed Out’, the band dream up life in a different universe: where the pair got real jobs and never left their hometown. ‘Good Eye’ is on the flip side of that conversation, with the band celebrating the hectic tour schedule that’s dominated their lives since the release of 2018’s ‘Blend Inn’. An arena-ready beast, the track champions trusting your own instincts and, true to their word, it’s something Hockey Dad do across ‘Brain Candy’.

Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming never let being a two-piece restrict their movements on ‘Brain Candy’. Instead of following the loud and louder paths laid down by the likes of Royal Blood or Death From Above, Hockey Dad pull from all over: ‘Milk In The Sun’ channels the roaring workaday spirit of Stereophonics, ‘Good Eye’ flirts with Oasis’ broad, confident strides while epic album closer ‘Looking Forward To The Change’ echoes DMA’S’ latest album ‘THE GLOW’, blending psychedelic rock and wonky electronic dance to devastating effect.

It’s mid-point ‘Itch’ where the band really come into their own though. Echoing Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ and aiming for the stars, it’s a brooding masterpiece of uncertainty and forward motion. “Sleeping until it’s all OK, tell me how the system’s changed,” sings Stephenson before the track makes threats of total collapse and he repeatedly insists, “I’m OK.”

‘Brain Candy’ is better than just OK, though. A departure from their scrappy origins, this record is a big, grown-up collection of forward-thinking rock gems. Sure, it might not be as chaotic or feel as grimy as what’s come before, but it’s a deliberately larger-than-life affair. With ‘Brain Candy’, all bets are off: Broader, more colourful and with a lot more to say, it shows Hockey Dad are ready to take on the world.

Details

Hockey Dad new album Brain Candy

  • Release Date: July 31
  • Record Label: BMG/Farmer & The Owl
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