What is it in a band’s DNA that makes their sound instantly attributable to a city?
Whether it is the Beatles or Gerry and the Pacemakers in Liverpool in the sixties, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses in Manchester in the nineties or Stormzy and Skepta in London now, there is something instantly recognisable that can transport you to a geographic location.
The July Rough Trade Album by Bodega screams NEW YORK!!! (or more accurately BROOKLYN!!!) and is none the worse for it. Hell – they’ve got a song called Williamsburg Bridge.
The ingredients are there. We’ve got Mo Tucker stand-up drums with some scratchy Lou and Sterling rhythm guitar. Name Escape twitches like Fear of Music era Talking Heads. There are LCD Soundsystem girl/boy call/response vocals.
It rattles along at a fair old pace – 14 tracks in 33 minutes with only a little bit of sagging in the middle of side 2.
There’s plenty of characterful detail too. Boxes For The Move captures the ennui of shifting homes, gaffer taping up old cardboard standing in the rain. Care has been taken here.
The clear standout is Jack In Titanic. A love song comparing the singer’s devotion to Leo’s character from watery disaster blockbuster, it raises a smile but is equally heartfelt.
Can I tell you that no one shows devotion when they’re down on their knees quite like me
Except maybe Jack in Titanic
And no one sees your state of grace with light through the leaves like I see
Except Jack in Titanic
Musically, it is pretty Brit-friendly too. The short sharp tunes bring to mind Brakes, Elastica and Wire. It is punchy post-new wave stuff.
And herein may lie the rub.
The reference points are of a time and place. Will they translate to the next record? The band apparently have an ethos, twelve commandments to adhere to:
- No references to garage rock.
- No glam rock.
- Be more democratic.
- Do not be “stock” or “basic.”
- No “pizza core” (“an ethos of playing rock music that’s like, ‘We’re drinking light beer, eating pizza, and we’re going to rock’ ”).
- Every measure of the record has to earn its place, both lyrically and musically.
- Do not repeat lyrics.
- No fluff.
- No distorted power chords or fuzzy chords (“It’ll sound really good but it would just suck up so much of the frequencies of the mix”).
- No vocal effects allowed.
- No lyrical platitudes allowed.
- Every lyric needs a specific context (“Where does this take place?”).
These were set in stone when the two singers (Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio) formed the band a couple of years ago. It’s okay having a mission statement as long as it isn’t too constraining.
For the moment, let’s just enjoy their debut. It’s emerged pretty fully formed and confident.
It’s fun. And for now, that’s enough.