While you could argue that punk spirit is timeless, the same cannot be said for punk style. While I wouldn’t hold tightly, as I did in my youth, to a belief that you can only be a punk for 3 years, eventually everyone outgrows punk. Punk’s energy and primitivism is meant to be combustible, it is meant to burn out. That means every good punk group that wants to keep going eventually has to find a new way forward. That could be a Sandinista style gathering of influences, a long term commitment to experimentation like Sonic Youth, or one step sideways into AOR or Metal like the Manic Street Preachers or Foo Fighters. Some bands manage the jump in one leap, but other bands take longer, like Iceage’s 7 year 3 album journey from hardcore to last years’ Seek Shelter.

Four years on from their debut album Endless Scroll, Bodega appear to have delivered a deliberate follow up in Broken Equipment. Combined with album art that develops a house style, the first two singles from the album ‘Doers’ and ‘Thrown’ capitalise on Bodega’s established strengths. New York City is central to the Bodega experience and these songs suggest past NYC punk heroes as Talking Heads, with ‘Thrown’ dealing in sharp basslines and jittering rhythms. While nothing on the album specifically references Covid, the lyrics of ‘Doers’ capture something of lockdown in the city with its ‘Bitter, Harder, Fatter, Stressed out,’ lyric. ‘Statuette on the Console’ aims for the heart of the moshpit and makes a direct hit. If you liked Endless Scroll, there an ample supply of more of the good stuff on Broken Equipment.

With their endless awareness of the ways in which faceless corporate agendas work against the individual, it is perhaps not a surprise that Broken Equipment branches out beyond Bodega’s established sound before the band’s USP becomes formulaic, factory produced broken equipment. Arguably the most important moment in the whole album comes with the introductory riff to ‘Pillar on the Bridge of You’. There’s something in the chime of the guitar that shifts the frame of influence from late 70s to mid 80s. New opportunities present themselves to the band including lyrics that deal with a relationship rather than the struggles of city life. With a lyric reminiscent of ‘Bit Part’ by The Lemonheads, ‘How Can I Help Ya?’ also is more jangly indie than punk with a strong Beatles/Byrds flavour. ‘All Past Lovers’ has been infused with the essence of twee before ‘After Jane’ shows vulnerability in its storytelling with an acoustic Beat Happening style backing.

The result of this genre stretching is that Broken Equipment feels like a transitional record. It is not perhaps quite as fierce and united a statement as Endless Scroll, although the quality is there in every area. Bodega are growing out of punk but they’re a band that are going to take a little time to work it out. ‘Seneca the Stoic’, leaves one final clue to the future for Bodega. With its chorus of ‘Wonder what the evolutionary reason for melancholy is?’ and a swirl of guitars, if they want it, Bodega have an awesome Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. referencing 80’s indie album bubbling inside them. That sounds like a more exciting prospect than more of the same. When you’re a punk, forwards is the only way.

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