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Bodega play Soup Kitchen in Manchester, review: Potential as this year's most vital new band

The Brooklyn punk quintet have a message: get a life and get off the internet

Joe Goggins
Tuesday 17 July 2018 14:37 BST
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All my friends: the five-piece count LCD Soundsystem and The Fall as their heroes
All my friends: the five-piece count LCD Soundsystem and The Fall as their heroes (Press image)

Ben Hozie – one of Bodega’s two singers – is introducing their track “Truth Is Not Punishment” to a packed-out Soup Kitchen in Manchester. “Here’s a song about spending more time with your computer screen than with your loved ones. It’s set in 2013.” The crowd laugh, but anybody who’s picked up the Brooklyn five-piece’s incendiary debut record, since it dropped earlier this month, will know that in amongst the scabrous humour of its endlessly quotable lyrics is a pointed and often intensely self-critical narrative about our present-day relationship with technology.

That much should be clear from the album’s title, Endless Scroll; their detailed exploration of internet addiction is what sets them apart. That goes for both their contemporaries (the record was produced by Austin Brown of Parquet Courts, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then he and his bandmates will certainly have felt complimented by Bodega’s shouty vocals and choppy guitars) and their heroes – LCD Soundsystem never sounded quite this angry, and The Fall, frankly, never quite this coherent.

Hozie introduces “Charlie”, a song about a departed friend, by dedicating it instead to Mark E Smith, noting that he’d be rolling in his grave at the sentimentality. You wonder what he would have made of Bodega’s stage presence, which borders on mannered at times.

They line up left to right, with Hozie a writhing, snarling picture of punk rock power. Bassist Heather Elle perpetually sways back and forth. Hozie’s fellow singer and drummer Nikki Belfiglio, front and centre, has something of LCD’s Nancy Whang on speed about her. A second drummer, Montana Simone, smiles serenely behind her own kit, in jarring contrast to the energy being expended around her. Out wide right is guitarist Madison Velding-VanDam, who looks every inch the young Wilko Johnson, his aggressive, machine-gun movement coming complete with a wild-eyed stare.

The overall effect is striking and yet you get the sense that it’s all a little bit more visually rehearsed than the band would want you to believe. Still, the group are far more in sync in musical terms, even as the set itself feels eclectic, running the gamut from “Bodega Birth”, a noisy rebuke to computer culture that sees Hozie mix it up by interpolating a couple of barked verses of The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, to “Gyrate” – a raucous, riot grrrl-inflected ode to female masturbation that sees Belfiglio take the lead.

When they truly gel, as they do on a surprisingly stormy “Boxes for the Move”, or during a 10-minute maelstrom of noise that closes out the set, the results are exhilarating. You suspect that, for some, there’ll be moments where Bodega’s lyricism is a little too arch, their presentation a touch affected. There’s no question, though, that they have something worthwhile to say – as long as the message cuts through the artifice, Bodega have the potential to be the year’s most vital new band.

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