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Album of the Week: Porridge Radio hit new heights on 'Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky'

Porridge Radio - 'Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky'

Brighton rockers Porridge Radio have returned with their much anticipated third album. Entitled Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky, it is their most accomplished album to date, and it sees the band build on the foundations they laid with their critically acclaimed 2020 record, Every Bad

Across the new album, the whole band shine, and it feels less like frontperson Dana Margolin’s solo project and more like a more resounding group effort. They’ve touched on some really interesting points here, having us excited for what is to come in what is already shaping up to be a promising career. 

Notably, their sophomore effort established the band as one of the hottest prospects the UK has to offer, and now, they’ve entered a totally different ballpark. Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky is more anthemic than their previous release, and in terms of songwriting, textures and production, the band have shown that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. 

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The new album carries on in the autumnal, introspective style that they’ve made their own and is a real mix of emotions. Considering it is described as the sound of “someone in their late twenties facing down the disappointment of love, and life, and figuring out how to exist in the world, without claiming any answers,” that’s probably quite fitting.

The album is drenched in surreal imagery that helps to quell any thought that the messaging is contrived. Across its 12 tracks, Margolin has confirmed that they are one of the best songwriters of this generation. Their lyrics are incredibly poetic, fitting somewhere in between the likes of melancholy masters Morrissey and Robert Smith and more cutting social commentators such as Andy Partridge or Jarvis Cocker. 

When writing the album, Porridge Radio drew heavily on the work of artist Eileen Agar as well as the story of Jacob’s Ladder from the Old Testament, showing the dexterity that the band have. There’s a fluidity that underpins the record, which understands that nothing is binary, including emotional states. “With this album, the feelings of joy, fear and endlessness coexist together,” Margolin explained. Co-produced by Tom Carmichael, Margolin and drummer Sam Yardley, it is clear that this team effort managed to raise the stakes for the band and fully bring this kaleidoscopic journey to life.

Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky kicks off with the lead single ‘Back To The Radio’. A defiantly anthemic piece, it slowly builds up with the continual strumming of the guitar, with feedback panning in and out. It marries the beauty of Margolin’s lyrics with the raw passion that the band do so well, and contains flecks of alt masters Dinosaur Jr. and Veruca Salt. 

Elevated by an earworm of a synth line, as is seemingly every track on the album, the song embodies the romance of British autumn and the time to yourself that the time of year brings, setting a precedent for the rest of the album. Duly, it makes you wonder why they opted for a summer release.

Regardless, the album carries on, and in reality, it is without any glaring downsides. The second song, ‘Trying’ is another stellar number, and it is fuelled by the Margolin singing lines such as “What if I never get it right?”, perfectly encapsulating the messaging of the album. Rhythmically, it’s not dissimilar from cuts you might expect on a Badly Drawn Boy record, which is not a bad thing at all, as he, like Margolin, is one of the most perceptive songwriters the UK has had over the past 30 years. When listening, I was met with the feeling that if this was 2002, the song was ripe for the picking when constructing any Nick Hornby soundtrack you like.

Whilst there are many highlights, including ‘Flowers, ‘Jealousy’, and the utterly gorgeous title track, a personal favourite is the super atmospheric ‘The Rip’, which is perhaps the most forward-thinking song on the record. Margolin and the band repeat the line “an now my heart aches”, before it descends into a sequence where the guitar is so amped up, and backed by some trippy synths that it contains sounds similar to early Tame Impala, and I’m here for it. 

Added to this is power is Margolin’s vocal performance, which is brilliant. Recalling the recording process, Margolin said, “I kept saying that I wanted everything to be ‘stadium-epic’ – like Coldplay”. Whilst there are practically no similarities to Coldplay across the album, on ‘The Rip’, the band certainly managed to get a little “stadium-epic”.

As an interesting side note, after listening to ‘Splintered’, go and listen to ‘Fire on the Mountain’ by West Coast heroes Wand, and tell me that the similarities in synth lines are not remarkably stark. This is not inferring plagiarism but quite the opposite. This is attempting to show just how random music can be. The breaks in both songs are basically identical, apart from the fact that Porridge Radio lacks the firepower of Corey Hanson’s guitar playing. 

All in all, Porridge Radio have produced their best record yet. They’ve unchained themselves from their early work and have set off down a path that will surely see them hit the heights of their heroes. Expect them to be packing out Academy venues very soon. 

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