HOCKEY NIGHT – Keep Guessin’

hockey night

Listening to this second album by Hockey Night, it seems almost inconceivable it was released on Lookout! Records, a label best associated with punk bands. The slack-vocalled indie rock cool found within these album’s grooves is far more in keeping with Matador Records – and in particular the latter-day works of Pavement. The influences here are really strong, not just musically; Paul Sprangers’s vocal is a dead ringer for Stephen Malkmus.

I’d like to spend more time than I have time choosing musical moments which stand out, but the truth is, these guys have no originality in their sound; there’s nothing here you’ll ever listen to and say ‘oh yeah, that’s the Hockey Night sound’, as everything sounds so much like ‘Brighten The Corners’/’Terror Twilight’ era Pavement. The comparisons are unavoidable, so much so, I have moments listening to this album where I forget it isn’t them.
If you can get past that, surprisingly, ‘Keep Guessin’’ has charm.

‘For Guys’ Eyes Only’ has a sunny feel, ‘Tubin’ has some decent, but quite twee guitar work and and what sounds like a trumpet overdub, and ‘Grim Break’ has a certain pleasure in its discordance. There are elements within ‘Cooperation’ which are stand out a little more. There guitars are faster and slightly more garage rock during the first half of the song, complete with occasional handclaps. I’d hoped it would present something which would break away from the rest of the Pavement-obsessed material; but during the second half, things slow slightly, the guitars change to longer notes with slight vibrato and the bits where it gets very slack are so clearly influenced by material like ‘Transport is Arranged’.

On the whole, most of the songs on ‘Keep Guessin’’ could’ve fit in with Pavement’s ‘Terror Twilight’ material and the influences are so obvious. Being a big Pavement fan, I should hate this record in principle. Yet somehow, despite its largely plagiarised faux slackness, there’s a lot here to love.

January 2010