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Bodega: Our Brand Could Be Yr Life Review – musical bullseye

Now that we’re all living the oppressive everyday reality sometimes it can be hard to remember that it was ever any different. Enter NYC’s BODEGA, a band who have a knack for album titles that nail the over-saturated ennui of existence in the 21st-century food chain.

Of course, some feel the sector of the indie world comprising bands loosely within the post-punk play zone, and offering varying degrees of social critique, to be a little over-crowded. As widely reported, according to the Last Dinner Party people are, “sick of downtrodden post-punk bands singing about the cost of living crisis”. Umm, possibly but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an entirely valid and necessary reaction to the chaos that is planet Earth 2024. There’s always a place for escapism, just as there is a need for questioning and confronting reality, thankfully the two can happily coexist.

Listening to Our Brand Could Be Yr Life, I keep being drawn to that mystical sweet spot where accessibility and dissonance meet. Just a step to either side and you’ve missed it, but get a bullseye and the results are sublime. BODEGA know that place well and more often than not locate it. It seems the ability was there from an early stage as curiously many of these songs date back some eight years to their first lo-fi incarnation, Bodega Bay, now presented reimagined with better technology and superior musicianship alongside a smattering of new songs.

Beginning with the measured chug of “Dedicated to the Dedicated” reassuringly, many of Our Brand’s charms are instantly on display. Undercut by the swelling tension of its initial verses, the track ebbs and flows in an echo of the way early R.E.M songs grabbed hold of your attention through a process of embedding themselves in your subconscious.

It proves to be no outlier. Later, the honeyed fuzz of “Tarkovski” slides in on a very Peter Buck style jangle, before offering up its ultra-catchy Television-esque guitar solo, while the lovely “Webster Hall” deals in super-melodic early eighties college rock, its leisurely shimmer departing all too soon. This kind of beauty is maybe something you wouldn’t naturally expect from BODEGA, but they do it so well.

Then, another weapon in the armoury – the shifting male/female vocal interplay, adding texture and depth. With her consistently magnetic vocal presence Nikki Belfiglio successfully channels the criminally under-rated Debora Iyall of the incendiary Romeo Void.

Elsewhere there’s still time for spiky angularity, see “ATM” with its invigorating guitar churn or the bass-driven screed of “Set the Controls…” But more frequently there’s a striking quotient of rough and ready power pop melodicism at play, recalling great bands like the DBs or a less frenetic Feelies. “Cultural Consumer III” with its cheeky Beatles reference may be a clue to their inherent love of melody.

Ultimately these songs work their sly magic in subtle and nuanced ways and here may lie the risk for BODEGA. Their, at first seemingly modest, charms need re-evaluating when on the third or fourth listen it all clicks and you realise what appeared modest is in fact pretty sublime.