If it aids someone differentiate Porridge Radio among the UK’s booming nation-state, it could help, syntax, and bold post-punk artists, Dana Margolin would like to compare them to nu-metal or grunge: “They’ re as shudder as me” she joked in a press release. Whereas their peers emote through cryptic metaphors, wry wordplay, dense allusions, or deadpan humor, Porridge Radio revel in being the kind of people who dream of showing up to your birthday party just to scream “I didn’t like to be enjoyed!” over and over again. Breathlessly named like an early Bright Eyes deep cut, Porridge Radio’s third album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky honors Margolin’s self-appraisal: an inversion of teen pop that doesn’t engage in time travel so much as allow adult listeners to keep their most immediate and mortifying mindsets close at hand. If they could write uplifting, emotionally mature love songs, I’m not sure they would do.
They came close with him “Lilac” the crescendo to 2020’s breakthrough, Every Bad Thing, where Margolin hoped for a future of collective kindness and self-care. On the water slide, it’s clear that it didn’t happen, Margolin deals with concerns that don’t resolve themselves in the span of two years: the struggle to define self-worth, a hyperbolic vision of “fondness” that encapsulates extreme elation and depression rather than any exchange of intimacy between two equal partners. The Most pressing need is to stop being consumed by the waste, she writes about fear of death and dying, which her feverish inflections on “Birthday Party” imply are two very different things.
As much As the pandemic itself amplified Margolin’s anxieties — “Every Bad” was released two days after the WHO declared a global pandemic in March 2020 — there was also her experience of fronting a buzzing indie rock band when the expectations for doing. Porridge Radio began writing “Back to the Radio!” the delirious opening track of waterslides, towards the end of 2019, right when the promotional cycle for Every Bad was revving up and Margolin began to absorb everything that would soon be required of her band. How would their friendship survive their first international tour?? How would their music be interpreted?? Is vulnerabilities scaled?? Understandably, their first response was to self-impose quarantine: “Lock all the doors and march up the stairs/And you’ re looking for me, but I’m sure you’ re unready for it” Margolin bellows. It’s Porridge Radio’s first intentional anthem, with a rousing chorus that accrues momentum and mass with each repetition, like a soccer chant shared by a swaying head, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd — that is, if it wasn’t written to suit someone drinking away their fear of change in total seclusion.
Processing overwhelming and conflicting impulses within closed spaces is where Porridge Radio’s music functions best. While the vast, Tidal expanses of Every Bad often invoked the band’s roots in seaside Brighton, Waterslide is less musically temperamental, its peaks never pushing into the red and its quieter moments indulgently stewing in their indulgently sullen moods. Forgoing their past reliance on blunt force, static, and stabs of distortion, Waterslide broadens Porridge Radio’s sound with honking synths, megaphones, horns, studio luxuries with the patina of junkyard grime — the influence of Rain Dogs smuggled into radio-friendly indie rock vis a vis Modest Mouse.
Still going strong!, it’s Margolin alone who determines the trajectory of each song. Even as she reaches her peak of dysregulation she continues to revert to herself “Birthday Party” the volume behind her barely rises; It’s not like a full-blown meltdown, but rather someone about to be calmly asked by a friend, again, “Please don’t make a scene.” Rarely does a minute go by without Margolin re-calibrating the stakes of every interaction to an impossible height. The errant lover from “End of the Last Year” doesn’t just break hearts — they break everything they touch. On “Jealous” Margolin confesses, “Nothing keeps me almost as disappointed as you did.” She is an apple, rotting from the inside out, a ripe tomato waiting to be cut in half and squeezed into pulp. She watched her dog refuse to pick up a stick, she sees a greater metaphor for a cruel, unfeeling world. To the desolate closing track, there’s little between hell and heaven.
These are merely passing states. Most of the time, Margolin anchors a verse’s worth of tangential thoughts and inventive phrasing with a despairing mantra: “Don’t want my body to be touched/Don’t want this to mean anything to you” “It stops the rot from spreading” “You’ re that much I desire.” But this tactic feels like an artist discovering their signature on Every Bad Thing, the thematic reiteration turns all of the self-recrimination and emptiness and brokenness into an emotional brownout as Waterslide progresses. “I want an experience all the time/I don’t really like to experience an item” Margolin shouts on “Birthday Party” as a quintessential lyric; if they’ re gonna feel anything, they want it to the extreme.
Still, The intentionality and humor in Margolin’s repetition keeps it from becoming a crutch. Despite noting the influence from the sound and spirit of arena acts like Deftones and Coldplay, Porridge Radio never allows themselves to fully project their pain outside, where it can reach the cheap seats. Here is certainly the potential for catharsis in comparing yourself to a splinter and begging your partner if you want to “never to trim me through” until you get out of breath. But throughout Waterslide it also showed the same, Margolin instead conjures the sound of pure frustration: desires unheard, Needs unmet, people experiencing their most juvenile impulses in an adult body and no longer able to solve them with the cheap thrill of acting out in public.