Hockey Dad: Brain Candy (BMG) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, August 5th, 2020  

Hockey Dad

Brain Candy


Jul 31, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Brain Candy is more than a zombie’s midnight snack—it’s the sweetness of gaining knowledge, caramelized and carefully presented in a delicious platter of surf-rock with silky ’90s pop punk notes. This is exactly the dessert that Hockey Dad serves up on their third LP, Brain Candy. On Brain Candy, the band experiments more, albeit only slightly, by yet again bringing in producer John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Parade) to help chef up some easily digestible tunes, infused this time with just a bit more dynamics than previous efforts. And this new recipe works in their favor—so I implore you to take a bite. 

In general, Hockey Dad’s sound is almost seamless. This effortless union might be due to the two members having known each other before they even understood object permanence. On the coast of Windang, Australia, bandmates Zach Stephenson (vocals, guitar) and Billy Fleming (drums) grew up only two doors down from each other on Boronia Ave—the street is also the name of their debut album. Meeting at the critical age of three and four, the two became close friends and eventual bandmates. And no, they’re not sick of each other yet—two decades so good. 

Brain Candy kicks off with Stephenson pleading: “I wanna fill a space in your brain/I wanna take up some real estate.” Often, his songwriting mimics this form: a direct appeal or confession behind fiery guitars and commanding drums. “I Missed Out” follows nicely as the duo seems to feel some sort of FOMO of not living a “normal” life: “But I missed every moment/And I missed out on us,” Stephenson concedes. Soon the power chord hungry tune “Good Eye” finds Stephenson seeing through facades. At first the song seems to follow the momentum of the other tracks, but then transitions to a brief, but noticeable, acoustic moment, which ironically is one of more sinister lines of the track: “I got the stand in the background cheering/They know I’ll come through everyday/I’ll pick a winner don’t you worry/And send it on its way.” Each of these tracks seem to administer some new insight: you can’t fix someone who needs fixing; I should’ve been more present; I know your game—it’s clever, without being too complicated or sorrowful. It’s Brain Candy—a tasteful instruction. 

But, while all of the tracks are enjoyable to some degree or another, only few are considerably memorable. The chorus on “Germaphobe” is chanty, but loses its magic after the third time around. “Milk in the Sun” has some cutesy harmonies but the advice of “Don’t leave your milk in the sun,” comes off more juvenile than comical. “Keg,” however, is a nice change of pace as it brings in a more surfy, almost country twang riff. As one of the slower tracks of the rhythm you might suspect it to be a filler of sorts, but it frames Hockey Dad as more than just a one-trick pony. But, “Itch” is still the shining star of the album. The band has even admitted it’s “the most non-Hockey Dad song [they’ve] ever written.” With a Radiohead-type melody, circulating riffs eventually build up to a complete full band break down. “I’m okay,” Stephenson admits. It’s like a transcendental horror film: Stephenson knows someone is under his skin, but somehow he feels empowered by it. He finds peace with his uncomfort. 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: there are a lot of bands that sound like Hockey Dad. Vista Kicks, Catfish and the Bottleman, Bad Suns, Hippo Campus. But Stephenson and Flemming are more knotty—and they have so much room to grow. As a band that named themselves after a video game that Bart and Milhouse play on The Simpsons, there is a genuine eagerness, a casual goofiness, and some unruly energy that makes the band all the more endearing. They’re just two dudes making music. And you know what? It kind of rules. ( 

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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