If you watch the game of ice hockey, you will be familiar with the name Sydney Crosby, who is arguably the best player in the National Hockey League. Everything he does is effortless, where he makes the game seem so easy. Likewise, Aussie duo Hockey Dad make surf-rock a breeze.
Friends since they were four years old and bandmates since they were thirteen, Zach Stephenson (guitar/vocals) and Billy Fleming (drums/vocals) have become legends in their hometown of the 2400-person strong Windang. Their following, however, extends well beyond the town’s limits, as their frenetic songs have made them favorites across Australia, New Zealand, and North America. We, too, are unabashedly fans of their catchy surf-rock with Wendy first covering the band in November 2014.
After several singles and a terrific EP, 2014’s Dreamin’, Hockey Dad have released their highly-anticipated, debut album, Boronia. While the LP is named after an Australian shrub, Stephenson and Fleming have created an record that is anything but flowery or showy. Instead, Boronia is flat out, unadulterated fun and a sheer pleasure on the ears. The album kicks off with back-to-back, sun-drenched numbers. “Can’t Have Them” is like a fuzzed out version of The Beach Boys while “A Night Out With” is a groovy, hip-shaking song.
The fun, though, really gets going on “So Tired”, an anthem for all the weary souls. The surf-rock vibes are apparent, but the band adds a little dose of punk-rock to off-set the pop-oriented arrangement. “Jump the Gun” follows, and it is the antithesis of “So Tired”. This energizing track is a call out for the good times to continue, which is how many of us are feeling with summer winding down. And every summer season there is a bit of romance, which Hockey Dad capture on “Hunny Bunny”. But instead of sharing for the typical ballad, the duo amp up the tempo and opt for a bombastic, body-swaying love song.
The second half of Boronia slightly differs from the first seven songs. While the intensity remains, the beach party atmosphere has been replaced with unfiltered garage rock. On “Laura” and “Raygun”, the tempo has been accelerated and the jangly notes have been set aside for rip-roaring guitar riffs and fiery drum lines. These are songs meant to thrash your head and go wild, and they present an edgier side of the band.
“Two Forever”, though, offers something completely different. Founded on ’70s and ’80s southern rock, Hockey Dad offer a thoughtful and more melodic tune. This is the album’s love song, although the duo fortunately do not fall into the trap of making a tear-jerker of a pop song. They have, instead, maintained the garage-rock grittiness, integrating enough reverb to prevent the song from reaching cheesiness levels.
The album ends on a high with “Grange”, which is one extended jam session. The song is a reminder that Hockey Dad not only can create great melodies and harmonies, but the two young Aussies can rock out with the best of them. It is an awesome finale, and you will be forgiven for clapping during the song.
And applaud you will when it is all done because Boronia is as entertaining an album you will hear all year. In many ways, it is like a time bomb ready to go off, except each song is explosive. It is also the rare album that you can hear the band truly enjoying themselves. The positive energy that emits from the record is felt on the listener, where you may be grinning throughout the album’s forty minutes. The only way to find out is to spin the album or see the band live.
Hockey Dad are on tour now. They are currently in North America until September 1st before returning to New Zealand and Australia at the end of September and into October. Find tour dates here.
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