Through conflict and turmoil, facing uncertainty and dichotomous situations, Brighton-based quartet Porridge Radio release all tension and angst on their fiery, powerful, and memorable sophomore album, Every Bad.
The ’90s was the decade of angst. The music that evolved from the economic turmoil, social enlightenment, and political instability was memorable. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, and others emerged as a result. Since then, albums like Nevermind have become the exception rather than the norm. Occasionally, though, a new band reminds you how angst can be the most powerful catalyst for creating an unforgettable record. Brighton-based Porridge Radio‘s sophomore album, Every Bad, is just that.
While the album is thunderous at points, Every Bad isn’t a pure grunge record. Rather, it is kaleidoscopic in sound, spanning from post-punk to art-rock, pop to alternative. Regardless of the genre, the band intensely roars, from the harrowing instrumentation to the lyrical power of frontwoman Dana Margolin. Across the eleven songs, Margolin and her bandmates – Maddie Ryall (bass), Georgie Stott (keys), and Sam Yardley (drums) – craft polarizing soundscapes that reflect Margolin’s dichotomous, often conflicting lyrics. They are the emotions and experiences of a person navigating through today’s chaotic world. The words are brutally honest, relatable, and provocative. They are her words, but they are meant for the whole world to experience.
“I’m bored to death, so let’s argue / What’s going on with me?”, she asks on the Cranberries-like opener, “Born Confused.” These are the questions she attempts to answer for the next forty minutes. She is Jason; Every Bad is the band’s The Argonautica.
She begins to seek answers on the intense slow-burner, “Sweet”, which focuses on her mother. Reminiscent of PJ Harvey’s push-and-pull approach, the song commences with a delicate melody before rattling minds and walls with a flurry of driving guitars and percussion. Early on she is “wishing out loud you were dead, and then taking it back.” Later she hopes, “You will like me when you meet me / You might even fall in love.”
“Don’t Ask Me Twice” and “Nephews” exhibit Porridge Radio’s creative brilliance. The former bears a Savages-like bubbling intensity. Through the dense darkness, Margolin quietly hollers, “Take me to Hell / Take me straight up”. The song transforms into a melodic goth-rock tune à la The Cure with Margolin repeating “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I want.” On the latter, the band unveil a hypnotic, dark-pop tune that bridges Daughter-like enchantment with Zola Jesus’ foreboding atmospheres. A feeling of crashing into a shoreline is created, which replicates the sinking feeling Margolin has as she tries to reason her existence.
“Oh, my dream took my far, far away
To a place where your mind will decay
And you slip into unconsciousness
And you’re dwelling again, you’re an unconscious mess”
The album’s emotional nucleus lies in “Lilac”. During its melodic intro, Margolin struggles to find love for herself and those around her. As the song builds into a blistering, enlightening ending, she issues an edict to herself and the world:
“I don’t want to get bitter / I want us to get better
I want us to be kinder / To ourselves and to each other”
Porridge Radio’s ability to surprise is revealed on its more somber numbers, such as the appropriately-titled “Pop Song”. Sweeping and awe-inspiring in atmosphere, this the antithesis of modern-day pop music. It is bleak and mysterious yet tantalizing. Through the stark beauty, Margolin tries to understand what “home” is. Jealousy and bitterness consume her, and she realizes that she is not what defines home. Instead, the people around her are. “And please make me feel safe”, she pleads at the end.
Her journey to understand “what going on with me?” takes a turn on the spiraling “Circling”. A carnival-like, grunge-pop sound fills the air, and Margolin’s delivery is similarly delirious. Her words, though, hit like a sledgehammer, as she sings:
“I’m doing well / I’m doing fine
We’re all o.k. / All of the time
Nothing is wrong / Everything is fine
We’re all o.k. / All of the time.”
At long last, Porridge Radio arrive home on “Homecoming Song”. Part early Genesis and another part The Cure, the band return to a familiar place of brooding. “Oh, I’m coming home”, Margolin says before asking to be alone. She realizes, “I’m a sinking ship”, and then repeats with Stott, “There’s nothing inside”. The journey has crushed her. The world has destroyed her sense of purpose and belief in humanity. There’s no golden fleece to be found nor returned, only an unshakable feeling of emptiness. It is the journey that matters most, and from it, this young foursome have crafted a grand artistic achievement. Every Bad is their own personal, epic mythology.
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