Album Review: Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Every Bad

You could be forgiven for thinking that Every Bad is Porridge Radio’s debut offering, such is the hype they’ve been generating.

In fact their debut album Rice, Pasta And Other Fillers was released four years ago. It was a low-key, low-fi offering that will be regarded in years to come as the sound of the band finding their feet. And you can be confident that such discussions will be had in the future, for Porridge Radio are in this for the long haul, whether they like it or not. At the very least, expect Every Bad to pop up when the lists are collated at the end of the year.

It’s one of those albums that instantly sounds familiar and unique, right from the off. Lyricist and singer Dana Margolin grabs attention with the album’s opening line: ‘I’m bored to death, let’s argue’, as Born Confused swells with gentle acoustic strumming giving way to a background organ while the rest of the band slowly make their presence felt. The song finishes with a coda of, ‘Thank you for leaving me, thank you for making me happy’. As becomes apparent, Porridge Radio refuse to conform.

Sweet takes things up a notch, devastating with tornado guitars as Margolin goes up and down the vocal scales whilst the music displays the time-honoured technique of quiet then LOUD. It’s an oldie but it never fails. Don’t Ask Me Twice takes another left turn, all tom-toms and cowbells before a life-affirming chorus with angelic backing vocals. Like much of the album, it feels like it’s barely held together. Give Take opts for a different approach, always on the cusp of exploding but opting not to do so, and is no worse for it.

Everything feels rickety. Recent single Lilac is fragile with laconic guitar and brittle violin. It has the feel of This Is Hardcore era Pulp, without the melodrama. Album centre-piece Pop Song also features languid guitar, but has a wooziness that feels like insecurity as music (‘please make me feel safe’). Anything but a pop song, it merits multiple listens with so many different layers hidden within.

Broadly speaking, the album is grandiose in scale, perfectly exemplified by Margolin’s titanic vocals. Lyrically, her nearest touchpoint is Karen O, but on the ever-so-slightly ponderous Nephews she performs some vocal gymnastics that only Florence Welch would try, while on the eerie (Something) her voice is auto-tuned to chilling effect. The rest of the band play their part too, specifically on the sublime Long, which again builds slowly, each instrument introducing itself as if part of an orchestra, a special mention  reserved for the excellent drumming. The strung-out, fuzzy bass on Homecoming Song works well in conjunction with the clattering drums as the song bursts and pops along to bring the album to a close.

It’s not perfect; the price to pay for warranted repeated listens means the lyrics, already repetitive, become wearing. Margolin is a fan of the mantra, repeating simplistic messages (‘there’s nothing inside’, ‘I don’t know what I want, but I know what I want’) which grate, although many are impactful by virtue of her delivery. Otherwise, prepare to immerse yourself in this collection of compassionate war cries.

8/10

Richard Bowes

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