Processing overwhelming and conflicting impulses within closed spaces is where Porridge Radio’s music functions best. While the vast, tidal expands 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, it’s Margolin alone who determines the trajectory of each song. Even as she reaches her peak of dysregulation on “Birthday Party,” the volume behind her barely rises; it’s not like witnessing 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 recalibrating the stakes of every interaction to an impossible height. The errant lover from “End of Last Year” doesn’t just break hearts—they break everything they touch. On “Jealousy,” Margolin confesses, “Nothing makes me quite as sad as you.” She is an apple rotting from the inside out, an overripe tomato waiting to be cut in half and squeezed into pulp. As she helplessly watches her dog refuse to pick up a stick, she sees a greater metaphor for a cruel, unfeeling world. By the desolate closing track, a little exists between heaven and hell.
These aren’t 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 to mean anything to you,” “It stops the rot from spreading , “You’re all that I want.” But where this tactic felt like an artist discovering their signature on Every Bad, the thematic reiteration turns all of the self-recrimination and emptiness and brokenness into an emotional brownout as Waterslide progresses. “I want one feeling all the time/I don’t want to feel a thing,” Margolin shouts on “Birthday Party” as a quintessential lyric; if they’re gonna feel nothing, 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 allow themselves to fully project their pain outward, where it can reach the cheap seats. There’s certainly the potential for catharsis in comparing yourself to a splinter and begging your partner “don’t cut me out” until you’re out of breath. But throughout Waterslide, 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.
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