Hockey’s 2009 debut, Mind Chaos, was an insanely catchy blend of indie rock, dance, and soul that delivered on multiple levels, but unfortunately never made the impact it should have. After losing two members in 2010, the band returned this year with a new LP called Wyeth IS. Stylistically, the two records couldn’t be farther apart, with the latter falling squarely into an ’80s vibe that the first album only touched upon. Drum machines fill the air, space permeates every song, and the tempo very rarely hits more than a crawl. While these things might be seen as detriments in some eyes, they’re also features that allow Wyeth IS to truly excel.
Wyeth IS is a comedown album, and it makes sense as the sequel to what was essentially the band’s party album. Still, the be-all-end-all fact is that it can be a challenge to get through. In response, responsive statements that do not apply include “you can only appreciate this if you have an open ear to different styles” or “the band is pushing the boundaries of ‘listenable’ by removing the hooks to make you focus on the foundations of the songs themselves.” That wound be pretentious, and the truth is that this album is pretty slow on all accounts and lacks the straight immediacy of its predecessor. It will bore some listeners by the fourth song, and they might be better off with a different track listing, but it will also grow on them. Comprehending the motives behind the release may take some time, but the process of discovering the intentions of Wyeth IS is part of the enjoyment.
Hockey manage to find a heavier groove on most songs and, as a result, the whole affair comes off as far more serious than their earlier work. The most immediate song is first single “Calling Back”, which acts as a cohesive bridge for the huge change in style this album attempts. Synthesizers fill the air on second-best highlight “Wild Style”, and one might mistakenly recall it playing at the prom in a John Hughes movie. The rest of the songs tout similarly conveyed feelings; it might be best to put the record on while driving after midnight rather than in the middle of a social gathering.
There’s a definite air of lonesomeness to these songs, and it’s intentional. You won’t be humming them throughout the day, and they won’t become your best friend. They’ll be that person you rarely see, yet deep down have a stronger bond with, the one who might even be more important in your life. That said, while it might be simple to write Wyeth IS off as boring, it sounds like nothing else being made and is worth the few listens it may take to fully grasp. Give it a chance and you’ll understand.