Existential Dread and Whimsy
By Paul Rigg
Every Bad (13 March 2020; Secretly Canadian) is the second studio album by British Indie four-piece Porridge Radio, following 2016’s self-recorded debut: Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers. It mixes heavy sounds and lyrics with wry humour and has been met by universal critical acclaim.
It is difficult not to focus first on lead singer and guitarist Dana Margolin, as her hoarse and trance-like incantations invariably draws the listener in like a drug. “I don’t know what I want, But I know what I want…” she sings, by way of example, “Oh fuck, there goes my fucking head again!” Drummer Sam Yardley, keyboardist Georgie Stott and bassist Maddie Ryall complete this Brighton-based band’s line-up, whose loud-quiet musical rhythms recall The Pixies or perhaps more simply, sea waves crashing against the shore.
The opening track, Born Confused, epitomises the heaviness and the humour in one line: “I’m bored to death, let’s argue.” “Thank you for making me happy” Margolin repeatedly intones, changing the meaning of the line until it leaves you on the brink of delirium. “Maybe I was born confused…” Margolin states as if to twist the point, “but I’m not.”
The powerful single Sweet follows, which finds Margolin chanting the words “I am charming, I am sweet… You will like me when you meet me”. The song begins with a sentimental moment in which her mother gives her a novelty pen as a gift and then builds in intensity, before the dark self-knowing wit returns: “I used to be ashamed until I learned I love the game.” On the video Margolin can clearly be seen playing her beloved red Revelation RJT-60 thinline. As she said herself she was looking for a guitar for 18 months before she found what she wanted. “I found it in a music shop, and I thought “fuck, that’s the perfect guitar for me, that’s exactly what I want… “
Post-punk Long talks about people who waste your time, while Nephews, refers to a person watching someone “slip into unconsciousness”; perhaps into a sleepy drunken haze or under the sea. On the Indie anthem Give/Take Margolin wonders how can she “say ‘no’ without sounding like a little bitch?” “I want want want...” she repeats, openly invoking her inner child.
The outstanding pre-released single Lilac, meanwhile, talks about the desperate feeling of trying to help someone: “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,” but again spirals away into something completely different. Violins and guitars gradually build up a storm that seems without end. This ‘frenetic madness’ then gives way to the next track, the quieter, light-hearted Circling; as Margolin dreamily sings, it “takes me away, Puts me to sleep, Holds my hand and whispers gently.”
Every Bad is already being talked about as a possible Mercury prize winner and if not, it certainly represents a step up for the band. Porridge Radio’s varying tempos, angst ridden-lyrics and sense of irony and humour seem like the perfect antidote for these difficult times. What is going on with me? asks Margolin in the opener; and in a way the rest of the album provides the perfect response.