Fake it till you make it….

October 21, 2009 at 1:35 pm (Gigs, Music)

Hockey, Brighton Digital, Oct 1st 2009

Talk about ticking all the right boxes. If it wasn’t for their rather uninspiring moniker, it would be nigh on impossible to believe that the quartet of hipsters currently strutting around Digital’s tight stage like demented peacocks hadn’t been invented by some savvy A&R man in an evil lair somewhere.

Hockey as photographed by Rosy Johnson

Hockey as photographed by Rosy Johnson

Having begun as a two-piece sometime in 2002, Oregon’s Hockey have since doubled in size, honed their sound with former Talking Head Jerry Harrison, and have begun receiving rave reviews both in America, and more recently, the UK. Much of this is due to the their zeitgeist hugging and infectiously danceable 80’s style electro funk, and a recent touring schedule that has seen them rubbing shoulders with the similarly hyped Passion Pit and Friendly Fires. Tonight however, they are the main attraction, and a predictably young and sweat-sodden crowd has gathered, eager to see what the fuss is all about.

Dressed in what appears to be a Topshop dress beneath a ridiculously high collared leather jacket, and topped off with a fairly superfluous headband, lead singer Ben Grubin bounces across the stage like a hyperactive puppy as the band launch into ‘Work’. The band’s strengths as a live proposition are immediately obvious, with the hitherto laid back album track re-energised as a pounding, immersive floor filler. Not only do the band sound tight and focused, but crucially they are able to build on the basic arrangements of each song, extending and distorting their components through superbly executed instrumental breaks. Making full use of Digital’s shin-shakingly loud PA system, tracks like ‘Learn To Lose’ and ‘Wanna Be Black’ are embellished with addictively propulsive base lines and some fairly unexpectedly heavy riffs courtesy of axe-man Brian White.

The band seem keen to show that they are not limited to simply ape-ing their 80’s heroes, and display a fair degree of versatility for such a young outfit. Grubins dons a Dylan-esque acoustic guitar and harmonica combo for the country style ‘Four Holy Photos’, before lurching off into Studio 54 territory with a startling rendition of ‘3am Spanish’ which sounds alarmingly like Blondie covering ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Indeed, while the shifting of pace and divergence of styles occasionally falls flat, such as the encore of ‘Everyone’s The Same Age’, for the most part they manage to pull it off. So much so, that by the time ‘Too Fake’ arrives to send us on our way, it feels like a final flourish of excellence, rather than the one big hit they can rely on to get the crowd involved. So another test successfully passed, and proof that if anything, Hockey are actually a more interesting proposition in the flesh than they are on record.  With album sales continuing to fall at an alarming rate, it’s a trait that should serve them well.

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