Bodega: Endless Scroll review – funny, jabby potshots at online life
Brooklyn’s Bodega were hailed as “New York’s most exciting band” (by the NME) following a much talked-about appearance at this year’s SXSW. Although singer/guitarist Ben Hozie and pals had something of a false start as the short-lived agit-pranksters Bodega Bay, the revamped band have certainly blazed out from the traps. Debut single How Did This Happen?!, which kickstarts this debut album, is a jerkily propulsive mission statement on “the guilt of the cultural consumer”, replete with searing one-liners. In one, the protagonist “smugly walks” past a political demonstration, while thinking about the “half-off sale at Barnes & Noble”.
Although he is more sardonic than sarcastic, there is something of a New York Mark E Smith about the way Hozie uses mockery (and self-mockery) to ponder modern life’s absurdities and insanities, from learned male behaviour and hipster bands to expensive smoothies. He argues that the internet has made us masters and slaves of our own detached universes, where algorithms know us better than our friends. Thus, “staring at computers” has made us “miserable now”.
And yet, Endless Scroll is wry and funny, not downbeat. Hozie’s vocal foil, Nikki Belfiglio – the zippy, quippy Brix Smith to the frontman’s barking Mark – also takes a killer lead on the excellent Gyrate, inspired – but of course – by her experiences as a childhood public masturbator.
Endless Scroll was recorded by Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown on the same Tascam machine that birthed their album Light Up Gold, and comparisons between the two bands are inevitable. But Bodega’s main musical vehicle is snappy, jabby, early British post-punk (Wire, the Fall, and occasionally Gang of Four). Truth Is Not Punishment rattles along on a zinger of a tune, although some tracks sound too rudimentary for their own good, with the 49-second I Am Not A Cinephile particularly wafer-thin. Although Endless Scrolls suffers from a lack of musical variety or sophistication, there’s a brilliant curveball in the yearning, melodic Charlie, a prettily haunting ode to a friend who died by drowning, which hints at emotional depths to come.