Album review: Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Porridge Radio’s first album, 2016’s ‘Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers’, was the musical equivalent of a rag and bone man’s daily haul.  Gleams of gold glistening out from beneath the rubble. Recorded in drummer Sam Yardley’s garden shed, the Brighton quartet led by Dana Margolin finally gained access to a proper studio in 2018, the result of which was first presented to us through single ‘Don’t Ask Me Twice’. Despite the inconsistency of their debut, so many had their ears pricked for this moment due to the band spending the intervening three years building a reputation as one of the country’s must-see live bands. There’s something cleansing about having Dana bawl in your face, her bucket hat wearing keyboardist Georgie Stott creepily repeating her every word. 

And that is the central feature of Porridge Radio. Repetition. As Dana herself says, “it feels really good to just repeat shit over and over again until it becomes something bigger.” Scream “I don’t know what I want”, scream “I’m kind, I’m kind, I’m kind”, scream “I don’t want to get bitter / I want us to get better” – see how good it feels? Margolin makes mantras for the millennial age, statements particularly poignant now our identities are permitted to be as malleable as we’ve always known them to be. As a teenager I designed lyrics and quotes in word art, sticking them up haphazardly across my bedroom wall. “How do I say no / without sounding like a little bitch?” would’ve earned its place alongside Nina Simone’s quote “I tell you what freedom is to me. No fear” I’m sure.

If you’ve been lucky enough to witness these live performances, you would’ve seen Porridge Radio grow closer in real-time. Live, they fold into each other, prop each other up, make ‘in’ jokes with one another. Imperfections and faults are OK within the safe space of Porridge Radio. “Sometimes I forget to love / but that’s ok” Margolin sings on the electronic ‘(Something)’ and somehow you feel as if it was the musicians around who made her realise that. Margolin describes the sea as a place to ‘wash off your insecurities’, now having spent years revealing their closest secrets to one another, Porridge Radio invite you into the water, yours swallowed up by the deep blue for ‘Every Bad’s’ duration. “My body’s so uncomfortable” Margolin sings in the opening line of ‘Lilac’ and an entire generation feels seen. 

For the most part, their songs, visceral and unnerving, build to a violent crescendo, Margolin’s voice demented by the frenzied close as her band rally around her. They do diverge from this formula though, most impressively on ‘Pop Song’. Stoner in feel, Clams Casino could’ve been at the ones and twos here, the skygazing guitars could soundtrack the spiralling of smoke into the air. Margolin is equally laconic though her demand, “please make me feel safe” is less so. This could perhaps be an intriguing jumping off point for whatever they do next.

‘Every Bad’ is the kinda album you’d mix up with your identity as a teenager. If people didn’t get that, they didn’t get you. Whenever I play it, it takes me back to the first time I played Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not’, jumping from the bed to the chair and back again whilst still in my school uniform, thinking ‘this band are my band’. Porridge Radio are a band to call your own. 

‘Every Bad’ is out now on Secretly Canadian

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