It’s probably gauche even to suggest it, but Hockey’s major label debut, Mind Chaos, is, song-for-song and hook-for-hook, as solid a record as Phoenix’s far hipper Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. As with Wolfgang, each song on Hockey’s aggressively likable record, when considered in isolation, would make for a terrific standalone single but, when taken as a complete album, makes for something of an exhausting, suffocating listen. Frontman Ben Grubin’s lyrics tend toward the self-referential in a way that’s just too obvious to scan as clever (opener “Too Fake” is perhaps the worst offender in this regard, but the problem recurs on “Curse This City,” “Wanna Be Black,” and “Song Away”), but there’s no denying that he knows how to structure a pop hook. The cockeyed optimism of “Song Away” hits its mark with precision, paying tribute to pop music in a context that’s socially relevant, and doing so over a punchy groove that pays homage to the Cars. The gospel rave-up of “Preacher” is, again, too didactic to make for the kind of meta-structure for which Grubin likely hoped, but the sheer ebullience of the track makes up for what it lacks in sophistication. It’s the enthusiasm of the performances that makes Mind Chaos work, but the fact that it’s always dialed up so high also works against the album, as though Hockey is insisting a bit too much that they’re fun.
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