Label: Virgin Records Release date: 14.09.09 Website: Hockey Myspace Buy Amazon The bastard love child of Bob Dylan and The Strokes. Clever music you can dance to. Signed to a major for their debut album but largely unheard of. Portland quartet Hockey are all of these things and more; Mind Chaos is a storming, essential LP that develops a signature sound with shocking rapidity. The first, but equally as possibly to be the last thing that sets Hockey apart from their peers is Ben Grubin’s lyrics and delivery. A stream of witty and remarkably wide-ranging topics are half-rapped, semi-spoken, sung, bellowed and croaked with an absolute minimum of pointed transition; the whole vocal content of the album is fluid and striking. Opening track Too Fake begins with Grubin announcing, somewhat atonally, ‘I’d do anything that I’m told to/I’ll even mean it if I’m supposed to’, before slipping into one of the best hooks during the chorus of the album, to say nothing of recent releases. Make no mistake though, this album is certainly genuine. 3 AM Spanish is an evocative narrative and once the lyrics have seeped into your consciousness, a really quite unforgettable tune. Admittedly at points throughout the album (Four Holy Photos especially) Gruber relies on his Dylan-mode a little too heavily; the seminal American lyricist appearing as less of an influence and more of an Idol. Nevertheless, in the context of both the melodies and the theme of the album, it makes perfect sense. Ben gets funky @ Audio (The Great Escape) Hockey is completed by guitarist Brian White, bassist Jerm Reynolds and Anthony Stassi handling drum duties; their combined rhythm section presented as assured, novel and brilliant. Lo-fi intros explode into funky beats; jazz-blues guitar riffs get shored up by Stassi’s distinctive style and Parliament-esque bass lines. Listening to Curse This City it’s apparent that Hockey aren’t just hip, fusion popsters; these are boys steeped in a wide range of traditional music styles, and they know damn well how to adapt and bend them to their will. Ultimately there is little to criticize. Missteps such as the Dylan similarities and the slight over-clustering of more generic music tropes towards the close of the album can be counted on one hand. Mind Chaos is a wonderful reconciliation of modern and traditional, of the ‘alternative’ musical styles and mainstream ensure Hockey have a broad, though thoroughly legitimate appeal. The album has serious depth, though it’s signposted with welcoming invitations to tap your feet, nod your head, and sing along. Judging by the album artwork, the four of ‘em couldn’t quite nail down the one image to represent the album; fitting really, as like the songs contained within they’re all pretty much as awesome as each other. Rating: 9/10 Hockey - Mind Chaos