“What is going on with me?” Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin asks in the opening lines of ‘Born Confused’. It’s a question that seems to plague her for the duration of ‘Every Bad’, its songs whirling with confusion and contradiction as the singer attempts to get things straight. The Brighton-via-London band’s second album hops from perplexed to assured and back again in an instant, an intoxicating reflection on trying to figure out life in your mid-twenties and the consequences of inhabiting a world that gets increasingly more fucked up by the day.
Porridge Radio’s deceptively simple lyrics are a gift to this undeserving world; they burrow into your head and make you ask questions of yourself. She often repeats incantations over and over again – lines that otherwise might not have much impact if they were just spat out. Each utterance brings offers a new level on which the words could work, and which might not have struck you first (or second, or third) time around.
“You’re wasting my time,” goes the eye-rolling centrepiece of the softly glittering ‘Long’, sometimes playfully, sometimes pissed off. On the choppy, raw ‘Don’t Ask Me Twice’, the frontwoman professes: “I don’t know what I want / But I know what I want.” The words circle round and round like she’s caught in an endless loop. At one point, she half-screams “Oh fuck, there goes my fucking head again!”, as if all this confusion has her at breaking point.
‘Born Confused’, meanwhile, ends with her and her bandmates chanting, “Thank you for leaving me / Thank you for making me happy” over tremulous melodies, Margolin’s voice rasping with urgency as everyone else’s melts away. It’s a line that wields power whichever way you look at it – is she full of heartfelt gratitude or entirely dripping in scorn? Is one half of her message sarcastic and the other sincere and, if so, which half is which?
Porridge Radio – completed by drummer Sam Yardley, bassist Maddie Ryall and keyboardist Georgie Stott – don’t just leave it to the words to portray the contradictory, baffling workings of the insides of our heads. Musically, the songs often seem like they’re engulfing Margolin, as on the aforementioned ‘Don’t Ask Me Twice’. The track goes through different movements – sparse staccato guitar strums and detached backing vocals that sound like they belong on an Elastica song. It’s a tornado of chords and powerful drum thuds as Margolin loses her head; the lush, soaring conclusion is lifted by angelic echoes of the singer’s latest mantra. The second section almost swallows her whole, a wicked burst that feels like the moment your brain just snaps.
‘Circling’ is dreamy and languid, Stott’s keyboards sounding like a forlorn fairground soundtrack and Margolin’s guitar buzzing serenely. “I go inside the sea sometimes,” she cries, the atmosphere of her words switching from peaceful to desperate. The music laps at her voice like waves on the shoreline, inviting you deeper into its watery escape. “Swimming in the sea is a way to wash away all the shit,” Margolin has said, and this song feels like the sonic embodiment of that sentiment.
Post-debut Porridge Radio material has already seen the band be championed as one of the UK’s next great hopes, and ‘Every Bad’ is full of justifications for those hopes.
‘Lilac’, on which Margolin dreams we will “be kinder to ourselves and to each other”, is a dizzyingly bold piece of dissonant indie rock, its layers of faintly squealing guitars and glistening keys bordering on suffocating at points. ‘Give Take’ is the record’s closest thing to an indie disco anthem, while ‘(Something)’ ventures into territory you might not expect from a band who came up in the DIY scene: AutoTune. Over unbalanced, droning chords, Margolin’s voice filters through the effect with a stoic but sing-songy rhythm until her bandmates have built up yet more walls of sound around her.
Here Porridge Radio nail some of music’s hardest tricks – breathing fresh life into indie and making a record that can loosely be compared to other bands in fragments, but also feels entirely their own. ‘Every Bad’ is a breathtaking step up from their bedroom-recorded 2016 debut, ‘Rice, Pasta And Other Fillers’. No wonder they’ve declared themselves the “best band in the world”.
Label: Secretly Canadian
Release date: March 13 2020