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Critics choose: Hockey Dad, the surf rock duo with surprising depth | Music

Critics choose: Hockey Dad, the surf rock duo with surprising depth |  Music
Critics choose: Hockey Dad, the surf rock duo with surprising depth |  Music


WWhat do you do when the surf isn't calling your name? If you're Wollongong duo Hockey Dad, get together and make some music. Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming, musical partners and lifelong friends, started jamming in a family garage. Now they've found a legion of international fans playing everywhere from Reading to the Bowery.

At first glance, you'd be forgiven for mistaking Hockey Dad for the hundreds of other boyish outfits prefabricated for Triple J success. But I've always had a soft spot: their music is boisterous without being clunky, reminiscent of your favorite summer days (without the accompanying sunburn). Their 2016 debut album Boronia brims with charming chemistry and tributes to formative influences, including '60s garage bands and '90s punk acts.

It made them fit well into the Australian music scene, but jump forward to 2018's Blend Inn and you can already hear something sharper and more powerful in Stephenson's guitar work; There is also a greater longing and depth to his singing. Call it surf rock for tough conditions.

Then came 2020's Brain Candy, which despite its release year had little nihilism or despair, even featuring the clairvoyant song Germaphobe, written pre-Covid. At a drive-in performance in October that year, hundreds of cars filled the Bulli Showground. Walking past the cars is like seeing the equivalent of the twist and fizz of a can being opened, a Guardian Australia reviewer wrote at the time. The same can be said of the album itself: largely frenetic, with buzzsaw guitars and pounding percussion that evoke, but never imitate, elements of Nirvana.

On all three previous albums the band galloped along, barely giving the listener time to catch their breath. By comparison, their new album Rebuild Repeat feels like interval training: lightning-fast sprints next to slow burns.

The album reflects the size of the rooms they now play in: it's full of indie rock stadium anthems, including the jovial opener Base Camp, which would prove a worthy soundtrack for a terrifying and novel haunting. The heartfelt That's on You is another highlight, and is ripe for the audience to sing along with their arm around a friend. Quieter numbers like Burning Sand fit comfortably amid the extravaganza, while piano-led closer Dancing on the Other Hand soars and swells, completing the band's decade-long transformation from feisty ringlets to bona fide stars.

It's a big swing, but you won't get knockout punches by clinking all the time.

For more: Hockey dadThe new album Rebuild Repeat is out now. Their Australian tour kicks off in Perth on June 21, followed by shows in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

This month, Guardian Australia also listened in

Doris Four Trees (June 7)

Don't call them shoegaze: when this five-piece from Newcastle turn to survey the firmament, they sound downright hellish. With just the blink of an eye, their debut album transforms the mumbling on the ground into howls with outstretched arms: catharsis through noise.

June Jones proximity (June 7)

After experimenting with the appeal of pure pop on singles Good Girl and Bubblegum, June Jones leans hard with her new EP: six plastic-fantastic bagatelles in which the BPM drives away all misery and partying is a panacea.

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Dobby Warrangu: River Story (14th of June)

A beautiful, radical community-minded album from the Murrawarri-Filipino rapper and drummer (or Drapper), all about water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin. Dirrpi Yuin Patjulinyawith an example of the call of a colorful butcher bird, is a striking song.

Hiatus Kaiyote Love Heart Cheat Code (14th of June)

More dazzling eclecticism from Melbourne's groundbreaking, long-running jazz collective.

Pond stung! (21st of June)

The new release from Tame Impala's better half (sorry, not sorry) is spacious and sun-drenched, spiraling upward towards the wild blue yonder. So: more of the same, but who cares if it sounds this good?




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