Album Review: Hockey Dad – Blend Inn

News of a sophomore record from Australian surf-pop duo Hockey Dad seemed a welcome break from the frosty weather and even frostier political climate upon its announcement back in October. Whilst the sun-bleached fun of debut Boronia tries to break through the dark clouds, follow-up Blend Inn is a decidedly paranoid affair.

Recorded in Seattle with producer John Goodmanson, the tense political atmosphere coupled with a fierce touring schedule away from home bleeds into their otherwise sunny outlook. The tracks dredge the grungier end of their output with their new base’s heritage clearly making an impact. Sunnier cut ‘Whatever’ is a lazy waltz through the outback dirtied by anxious lyricism; lilting guitars and echoing whistles are punctured by the closing ‘I just can’t decide if I will survive’.

Reliably packed with hooks, the album is testament to the friendship at the heart of Hockey Dad. Zach Stephenson and Billy Fleming are ridiculously in tune with each other – there’s a harmony between the pair that acts go years without. Whilst some of the tracks fade away without leaving much of an impact, it’s heartening to hear their bond splayed out with a killer riff and a cheeky Australian accent on ‘Sweet Release’. It’s probably no coincidence that said track finds the band returning to perkier material and having a blast after the dense fog earlier in the tracklist.

Blend Inn is an album full of fitting titles, none more so than its own. It’s both a metaphor for the band’s attempt to hide angst behind their usually sunny output, and a descriptor for their home away from home (which no doubt saw a lot of booze, as any good inn would). Wrought from paranoid times, it balances musical escapism with lyrical realism with a deft hand. At times it drags, but for the most part it’s a thrilling, punky trip through the eyes of a pair coasting the fringes of surf-rock. In a sea of choppy indie-rock, Blend Inn stands out.