Album Review - Hockey Dad: “Blend Inn”

“Blend Inn” does the exact opposite of what the title suggests: bringing Hockey Dad’s youthful and carefree nature to a whole new level.

By 2018, you would’ve thought Australia would have run out of its reserves in talented skater-punk bands, but Hockey Dad’s second album reminds me of what makes that countries alternative scene so great. Hockey Dad’s debut “Boronia” proved this by showcasing Weezer-tinged surf rock over some catchy lyrics and emotive chords, and I was hooked from the first listen. The band rarely comes over here to the UK, but I’m itching to see them the first chance I get. 

Opener “My Stride” takes a while to get into said stride, but its filled with some unique melodies and fitting drum patterns. Though the album starts on one of it’s weaker tracks, this song builds up to one of the smoothest endings to any songs on the record. “Homely Feeling” is the lead single on the album, and its structure and feel pretty much summarises the whole release. This song is heavier and shorter than most of their previous work, sounding like something off of Nirvana’s “Bleach” instead of a Hockey Dad album. The chorus is infectious and the guitar drives this song forward, playing unrelenting chords over some heavy beats. Second single “I Wanna Be Everybody” portrays the bands confusion of their youthful years, having released their first song when singer Zach Stephenson was 19 and drummer Billy Fleming was 17. Though this song has a strong meaning, this is easily a weaker track for the record, sounding more like a developed B side from their debut. Not too bad, but definitely a step down already from their debut early into the album. 

“Danny” brings some emotive undertones to the record, providing a nice needed change of tempo and throwback to older songs. Though this is again a weaker song and a little more “run of the mill”, and this track feels like it was thrown in last minute and written very hastily. After the change in pace that “Danny” brought to the album, “Join The Club” turns the record up to eleven. This song has ultimate skater-punk vibes, with the chorus being stuck in my head since I first listened. This track was probably meant to be filler, but instead shows the bands maturity in relatable (although simple) lyrics of the duo wanting to pursue their career as musicians and not fit into modern societies harsh standards:

“You better be happy/You better be healthy
You better be pretty/You better be skinny
You better have money/You better be funny
It’s not too hard/to join the club”

The whole album represents a rebellion against the climate of the current world, and influences people to just follow their dreams.  “Whatever” provides a middle ‘lul’ in the record in its calm nature, much like Danny but with something missing. This song is needed on the record, but as a standalone song, becomes boring and is a complete lyrical low. However, is still has that Hockey Dad charm and is worth the listen.  “Disappoint Me” kicks in with one of the strongest starts, with an insanely good sounding drum mix and crushing guitar chords. Clever lyrics and witty lines bring this track up to stand with the other best tracks on the LP. 

“Running Out” is what I imagine how crash test dummy’s feel when the hit the wall. Not only does this feature screeching guitar tones and some inventive chords, but also some hard hitting fills by Fleming. The pre-chorus and chorus on this track are addictive, and makes me want to get in the nearest mosh pit and lose a few teeth. “Cant keep running out” I scream along, hoping the band indeed doesn’t run out of tracks like this. Much like the previous, “Stalker” provides no slow down of speed in the album, blasting out some beefy drumming and grungy power chords in its fast paced chorus. This song just screams fun from the first listen, making it my favourite track along with Join The Club.

“Where I Came From” echos the older HD sound, having some more chilling out drumming and some off-beat, reggae like strumming. This song has a very anthemic bridge, but the verse has a weird feel to it, and the song doesn’t shine til halfway through. “Sweet Release” features Fleming on vocal duties, which is surprisingly refreshing. He speaks and sings with a very deep Australian accent, adding some authenticity and heart to the tune. Ironically, his voice in the choruses is a lot better than Zach’s at times, but it mostly showcases the talent both these musicians have. Ending track “Eggshells” features a very Blink-182 bass melody and some peculiar spoken word vocals, making for a weird but strangely fitting end to the album. 

Hockey Dad’s sophomore brings a hell of a lot to the table, taking influence from older tracks like “Ray Gun” and ” A Night Out With” and mixing them with some pop punk/punk rock vibes from the 90’s. The production and performance that went into this album is very well done, and is surprisingly crisp and clear for a release in this genre compared to something like an early Wavves album. Though nothing new or special and occasionally brought down by some cliche songwriting, this release features a mix of the best and worst Hockey Dad songs to date and is still the perfect soundtrack to skateboard through city streets and long drives on sunny days.

Best Tracks:
 Join The Club, Disappoint Me, Running Out, Stalker, Sweet Release
Worst Tracks:  I Wanna Be Everybody, Danny, Whatever, Where I Came From

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