Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Play ‘Hockey’: Portland band releases fresh debut

By Angela Stasiowski

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Never before has a band named after a Canadian-created sport had as much soul as Portland’s Hockey.

There is no need to explain the band’s musical back-story.  Their debut album “Mind Chaos” speaks for itself.

“What kind of accomplishment is throwback?  I was the first one to prefer that,” rhymes lead singer Ben Grubin on the track “Wanna Be Black.”  “Everyone’s making dance music, true, but we started in 2002.”

Grubin is correct in his assertion.  With the beat-laden dance craze that is currently sweeping the hipster community, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out as an original dance band. 

Collectives like Crystal Castles, MGMT and Justice have fought their way to the front of the stacks.  However, it is the underrepresented underground dance world that is starting to surface on top.

Hockey is on the verge of something huge with their debut.  “Mind Chaos” has all the elements of hipster greatness: humor, drum machines and the freshness to back it all up.

Currently touring with the notorious “Portugal. The Man,” the band has developed its own following over the past three years.  Their performances are high energy to say the least, with Grubin running back and forth to provide additional drum beats between verses.

“Too Fake,” the first single, begins with the 80’s aesthetic of cheesy drum machine beats and evolves quickly into a retro meets nouveau dance tune.

In his gruff whine, Grubin proclaims, “Look out!  I’ve got too much soul for the world.”  If “Too Fake” is any indication of what the band has up their sleeve, the statement is certainly a true one.

Despite their primarily electronic sound, there is a significant amount of diversity on the album. 

“Learn to Loose” and “Work” come across as cracked-out soul songs that are easy to tap a toe to.

If one were to wonder what it would sound like if MGMT were to cover a Bob Dylan song, one must look no further than “Four Holy Photos.”  The tune combines Dylan-esque whining and harmonica breaks over persistent bass beats and acoustic guitar.

“Song Away,” the second single, is oddly reminiscent of orphan Annie’s famous ode to tomorrow, with Grubin proclaiming that, “Tomorrow’s just a song away.”  While such an outlook has the potential to be overly sentimental, the vocals possess the sort of quirky optimism that makes it OK.

The sugar-sweet frosting on this sweet tooth’s song is made up of sunny guitar and synth accompaniments, which produce the most infectiously innocent pop song since Britney Spears was a Mouseketeer.

One of the album’s catchiest moments on “Mind Chaos” comes in the form of “Wanna Be Black,” a glimpse into Grubin’s upbringing. 

The notably pale singer occasionally lapses into bouts of rap, delving into his desire to fit into the African American musical movements of his childhood.  He cries, “When I was young, I only wanted to be black.”

There is hardly a filler track on “Mind Chaos.”  The band has struck a delicate balance between humor and talent with their music that keeps fans coming back for more.

The album is not for people who take their music too seriously, but what can one expect from a band named after Canada’s pastime.  Even for the bitterest of music critics, there is enough happiness here to go around.   

Angela Stasiowski can be reached at [email protected]

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