Bodega - Endless Scroll - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bodega - Endless Scroll

by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-07-06
Bodega - Endless Scroll
Bodega - Endless Scroll

Where Win Butler may have been prescient on Arcade Fire’s ‘Black Mirror’ a decade ago, Ben Hozie, leader of Brooklyn-based Bodega, knows we are already deep in the throes of digital doom.  Inspired by their post-punk forebears the reboot of Hozie’s truncated Bodega Bay (who sampled Gang of Four on their sole album) spends a good chunk of Endless Scroll detailing societal failings in the Information Age, Digital Age or whatever this downward spiral is we find ourselves in.  The album’s title is a perfect descriptor of the pixillated bombardment of our daily lives that is gladly received with not even a whimper of resistance.  Hozie on guitar and vocals is joined by Nikki Belfiglio (vocal foil), Montana Simone (drums), Madison Velding-VanDam (lead guitar), and Heather Elle (bass) on all manner of media deconstruction.  But when Hozie is detailing technology’s command over us, is also when Endless Scroll is at its most powerful.

Some of the songs contain leaden Siri/Alexa-like emotionless intros that hilariously highlight technology’s upper hand.  Personally, I’ve not connected well with Siri and her sisters.  My typical exchange goes something like this:  “Siri, call Jim’s cell”; “I can’t locate any rock climbing gyms in a fifty mile radius”; me cursing and fumbling to dial while rear ending the car in front of me.  Fortunately, Hozie has the good fortune of controlling the dead digital voices himself.  One of the most effective being the intro to ‘Bodega Birth’ where a male voice intones: “I use my computer for everything.  Heaven knows I’m miserable now”.  It carries the gravitas of Morrisey’s lyric with none of the emotion.  Elle’s bass line and Simone’s roll of drums carry the song along like the endless scroll that Hozie impassively warns us about.  Belfiglio’s livelier voice and VanDam’s guitar line breathe life into the otherwise wooden cadence.  Those contrasting forces are used to good effect creating the post-punk kindling that gives many of the songs their fire.  The uncluttered production at the hands of Parquet Courts' Austin Brown doesn't hurt either.  Hozie is also a good one to play spot the reference with - twisting some lines from Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’ to close out the song with another warning of where we are headed.

Several other tracks deal squarely with technology run amok.  Making these songs even more effective is that they aren’t Orwellian prognostications or cautionary warnings.  They are simply accurate observations on the present state of society which makes them all the more unsettling.  The call and response cadence of ‘Name Escape’ speaks to social media anonymity and lack of interest in why the guy next to us even exists.  ‘Bookmarks’ is the most cutting of these tracks.  Preceded again by an automaton sadly stating “I touch myself while staring at your chat text box” the title of the song refers to tracing our digital footprint over and over.  Chants reminding us that all we do, wherever we are doing it, is “stare at computer” hit a bit too close to home.  

Technological dominance is not the only societal ill singled out.  ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ points out consumerism that has brought us “gluten free water” and the “nine dollar smoothie”.  While ‘How Did This Happen?’, in addition to being one of the catchiest tracks here, speaks to class indifference while the band implores us to “think”.  Not all the commentary hits its mark though, particularly when they drift to the artsy by taking pot shots at mainstream cinema on ‘Jack in Titanic’ or pop art in ‘Warhol’ (A War, really?).  More jarring though, in a good way I might add, are the handful of songs where Hozie actually shows a little heart and even sings instead of speaks.  The gentle folkiness of ‘Charlie’ shows a strong nostalgic streak over a friend lost too soon.  And the heavily Velvets influenced ‘Williamsburg Bridge’ dares to get to human emotions and admits that seeing a little skin can still quicken the heart when we aren’t staring at our phones.                

Like the band’s namesake a good bodega has a bit of everything to offer and you never know what you might find.  The band covers a lot of ground sonically and topically, but are at their post-punk best when documenting their surroundings without the need to add judgment.  Truth doesn’t need embellishment to be biting.  To borrow the title phrase of the closing track here, truth may not be punishment, but truth is often painful to hear.  I’m as guilty as most when it comes to being digitally dominated, and it’s a lot easier to stare at nothing on your phone than to talk to a stranger.  And as we become more and more “connected” through the Internet of Things (YouTube on your refrigerator door anyone?), it’s more and more obvious where we are headed.  If you haven’t figured out where that is just ask Ben Hozie or maybe Jack from Titanic.  We all know where he ended up.

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