Music Reviews
Every Bad

Porridge Radio Every Bad

(Secretly Canadian) Rating - 8/10

Porridge Radio vocalist Dan Margolin can make even the most mundane internal monologue sound awe-inspiring. On the Brighton band's opening track, Born Confused, Margolin uses repetition effectively to exorcise the feelings she's bottled up for far too long. "Thank you for leaving me/thank you for making me happy," she repeats with increasing intensity, droning on and on much like the anxieties that fail to escape our thoughts. In this one moment, she's elevated her proudly self-proclaimed DIY band into a festival prospect that's ready for headline status.

It's been four years since Porridge Radio released Rice, Pasta, and Other Fillers, and since then, their aspirations and their sound have increased tenfold. Though marred in lo-fi production, you can hear the cathartic intensity in songs like Barks Like a Dog and Sorry, where Margolin's soaring vocals and buzzing leads push against drummer Sam Yardley's barreling drums (all recorded in Yardley's garden shed residence). There's a good sense of how the band was bursting with energy but short on resources, ready to stretch their limitations as far as they could go. Once singles like Don't Ask Me Twice and Give/Take surfaced on Bandcamp in early 2019, which showed how they'd refined their songwriting prowess, they were ready to say goodbye to Yardley's shed.

The previously mentioned Born Confused is crucial to Porridge Radio's latest full-length, Every Bad, because it's such a defining statement, not only because of Margolin's voice but also in how they render a brooding, yet uplifting sound with such bombast (think of other full-fledged album openers like The Twilight Sad's Cold Days from the Birdhouse or Savages' Shut Up.) On Long and Give/Take, Margolin shares intimate glimpses of unrequited love that ring universal—delivered with snide undertones which recall Justine Frischmann's wry suave. For a band that cherishes these muscular and off-kilter moments, it's surprising to hear them burn off some of their uncontrolled urges.

As for Margolin's lyrical quips, well, you can find them in droves throughout Every Bad's atmospheric and stylistic contours. On album centerpiece Lilac, she frenziedly cries the words "I want us to be kinder to each other," managing to get the close attention she demands. Whereas on the roughly burnished Sweet, she fearlessly pleads ("You will like me when you meet me") over a not-so inviting noisy breakdown. She's trying to be better, tied to her aggression, but she's also not afraid to let out her dramatic flair since, sometimes, it's the only way to get one's attention.

Something gets lost in Porridge Radio's songwriting when they dial the volume down a notch—the more rhythmically measured Pop Song and Nephews almost seem at odds with Margolin's commanding presence. It's a minor stumble on an otherwise raging album where the band tries to disguise their hard-driving melodicism with a clash of punk fury. But Margolin's bare-faced humanity is what's at the core of Every Bad, heightening the complicated feelings inherent in every one of us. Still, don't feel fooled into thinking that Porridge Radio's music is simple in terms of character and dynamic range. Whether they intend to or not, their tuneful, guitar-driven songcraft practically obliterates the left-of-center indie that's softened the genre into dreamy, pillowy mush.