by Louis Marrone (@LouisJ_Marrone)
For many, the current state of things has been a cause for outrage. Division and paranoia has become common for some people throughout the world. As a result, many artists have taken to their craft to voice their frustration and anguish. Artists such as Downtown Boys use their platform to speak out against injustice, mistreatment, and abuse. Other bands, such as THICK, while not straightforwardly political, talk about things that, inherently, have a socio-political coating (i.e. songs about desperate men and periods). The personal is, in many cases, political. The idea of obtaining a reaction. The idea of having something to say based on personal circumstance.
With that being said, sometimes you get something like Bodega, which sort of falls in the middle. One minute they’re talking about how the 1% is hoarding all the capital, and the next, they’re talking about… forgetting some internet friends name?
Based in Brooklyn and consisting of vocalist/songwriters Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio, guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam, bassist Heather Elle and drummer Montana Simone, Bodega is a band that’s got a lot of bones to pick. Their debut album, Endless Scroll is a diatribe against both consumerism and technology– the hold that both have taken on society, and how people can’t seem to escape them, despite them resulting in what the band considers to be injustices. But at the same time, the bands energy is so bold, sharp and utterly kinetic that you almost don’t notice, even in spite of their not-so subtle lyrics (though more on that later).
Bodega’s sounds– their aesthetics– are a Frankenstein’s monster of Talking Heads and Parquet Courts (who’s guitarist, Austin Brown, produces here), with a little B-52s thrown in for measure. From the way they dress to the way they sing about the issues, there’s this distinct attention to presentation and presence. The way that lead singer Hozie wears this seventies button shirt and dress shoes, or the fishnets that Belfiglio dons. It compliments the halloween punk sound they bring to the table.
The opening track to the album is “How Did This Happen?”. It asks the listener how we, as a society, got to the point where technology has made us both the slaves at their whim, yet also the masters of our own domain. We don’t have to be online all the time, or constantly relying on the internet and electronics for help. But then, why DO WE? People say they hate Twitter, yet they continue to stay on. The song's fast and catchy rhythm and ‘guys vs. gals’ vocal arrangement acts as a fun way to start the album off.
Songs like “Name Escape” take things into a slower territory musically, but with a similar concept— with a creeping sensation of confusion and ennui flowing through the overall sound.
Things go in an interesting direction with “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” introducing an anti-capitalistic theme; taking the saying “you can’t knock the hustle” and pointing out what they feel it’s actually a problematic motto. You CAN knock it when “the cats are making capital” and leaving none for the workers— the common man.
Bodega, instrumentally, is a lot of fun. All the tracks mentioned have funky, almost hypnotic rhythms and irresistible chemistry between the band members. The sounds are unique and experimental. They play around with samples— such as the Macintosh text-to-speech affects used to introduce a few of the tracks. The pacing and emotions are varying. Some songs are angry, energetic and loud; others are more quiet, such as “Charlie,” a song dedicated to the deceased loved ones of Hozie and Elle, as well as “Jack in Titanic,” a softcore punk cut with a catchy guitar line.
The highlight of the album is the closing track, “Truth Is Not Punishment,” where the band throws everything they’ve just served you into one package. It’s a bouncing, rapid fire bow to the listener. It’s political, it’s personal, it’s fun. VamDam’s guitars are shining through the speakers, and Hozie’s voice is doing everything it can to hit all the right notes as it keeps up. On the night of the limited release, the band had a concert at Sunnyvale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Seeing them perform this song live was easily one of the most memorable things I’ve seen. For twenty minutes, the band played until their fingers were skinned clean. Moving around, sweat coming out of every pore, banging, yelling, and strumming until the final minute before last call. You can feel at least some of that in the recorded version, which makes it worth the listen.
That said, one of the weak points is that, at times, the album could stand to have more subtlety. The lyrics are fairly straight forward, with lines like “Everyone is equally a master and a slave” and “I use my computer for everything/Heaven knows I’m miserable now”. You know the message right away and it can come off as a bit on the nose.
Overall, Bodea comes through with a strong debut. The band clearly defines themselves, and their messages. Endless Scroll is a project that feels like it went through just the right amount of fine tuning and work before it became too slick. It’s spooky, yet welcoming; aggressive yet digestible. It’s identifiable, yet also unique and different. The band themselves breathe something fierce into the lungs of alternative and punk.