Porridge Radio Continue Their Existential Ascent on 'Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky'
Published May 18, 2022When Porridge Radio's sophomore album Every Bad was released in March 2020, it seemed a true disservice to have one of indie's most exciting acts landlocked due to the pandemic. But the Brighton quartet made waves internationally all the same, earning critical acclaim as well as a Mercury Prize nomination for their efforts.
In 2022, frontwoman Dana Margolin, drummer Sam Yardley, keyboardist Georgie Stott and bassist Maddie Ryall return with Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky — except this time they're able to take their post-punk show on the road with a newly-booked North American tour on deck.
Continuing to explore existential questions and everyday unease, WDBLTTS is a natural follow-up to Every Bad. While owing its creative motivations to early 20th century art and biblical canon (the story of Jacob's Ladder in the Old Testament, specifically), the album is strongly rooted in the anxieties of modern life.
The band expertly steer through the analysis paralysis of rejection, jealousy, love and the general malaise of not knowing what you want. The tightrope Porridge Radio walk is between the realm of feeling too much and not feeling anything at all. It is a familiar paradox, though they somehow infuse it with enough naivety and young adult angst to capture our imaginations anew.
"Splintered" makes good use of this push-pull momentum, as Margolin and Ryall take turns echoing, "My body pushes you out / Don't cut me out." The LP's eponymous closer also mirrors this sentiment, as Margolin muses, "I don't want the end / But I don't want the beginning." On "Trying," the group are left contending with one of life's bigger questions: "What if it feels like nothing at all?" Ostensibly, what is left is the middle — or the ups and downs of Jacob's Ladder, so to speak.
At times, the record leans a little too hard into simplistic metaphors that fall flat (the taste of apples on "Rotten," or the conflation of a physical splinter with the expulsion of an emotional presence on "Splintered"). However, these minor moments are easily overlooked when weighing slow, blistering burns like "Jealousy," ultimately revealing the group's strength in naming and addressing feelings head-on.
At the core of WDBLTTS, as expected, is Dana's commanding presence and voice — a live wire whose movements spark fire and controlled chaos. The rawness she asserts on each track is arresting, almost dogmatic, as though if she repeats the words one more time with much more feeling, she can will them into existence. On "Birthday Party," she navigates the painful waters of affection before launching into a repetitive plea of "I don't want to be loved" that is a stunning masterclass in catharsis.
Part of what makes Porridge Radio so exciting is their existence and ability to thrive in near-constant beta mode; they continually test the boundaries of their sound and it feels as though they have never quite fully arrived at their final form. While some might see this as a barrier to a more mature sound, Porridge Radio delight in these universal growing pains that ultimately reveal a greater vulnerability, born of not having it all figured out yet. As such, WDBLTTS is a natural next step on the road to nowhere. (Secretly Canadian)