Hockey's debut, Mind Chaos, was initially going to be released by Sony Records -- the band even got as far as reworking some of its demos in the studio with producer Jerry Harrison -- but the album's fate was left in limbo when the label dropped the band. Mind Chaos got a new lease on life when Hockey's songs made their way to BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, whose championing of the strutting "Learn to Lose" helped earned the band another major-label deal. It's easy to hear why two big labels were interested in Mind Chaos; Hockey's angular basslines, chugging guitars, and washy keyboards call to mind tried and true, new wave-tinged acts like the Strokes, OK Go, and the Killers. For most of the album, they don't stray far from this style, and considering that they had been around for a while before Mind Chaos's 2009 release, they sound effective, but not especially fresh. Most of the band's character resides in Ben Grubin's raspy vocals, which lie somewhere between a young Rod Stewart and the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, and his surprisingly smart lyrics. He's nothing if not self-aware: Grubin sings about writing "a truthful song over an '80s groove" on the Cars-like "Song Away," the only Harrison-produced song that ended up on Mind Chaos' final version. Elsewhere, his hyper-literate tales of self-loathing posers and late-night intrigue give Hockey an appealingly witty personality. When they stretch out, they get intriguing, if mixed, results: "Work" reveals a slinkier, smokier side to the band, as well as a disco fetish, while "Preacher" travels from a gospel-infused ballad to blazing rock. Mind Chaos is an uneven but promising debut. Considering how much difficulty Hockey experienced in getting it out, it'll be interesting to hear what they do with a (hopefully) easier road ahead of them.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares