Sardonic New York art-punk collective BODEGA have an insatiable appetite for philosophy, and with their latest LP Broken Equipment, they have interrogated their own identities – and the external technological influences that shape the band – with self-aware pretentious wit, techno-scepticism and scathing social commentary. The result is a wordy concept album of sorts set in NYC; a collection of cynical anti-establishment post-punk.
Following the dissolution of their previous band Bodega Bay and BODEGA’s formation in 2016, Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio’s satirical musings – like those pondered on their 2018 debut Endless Scroll and 2019 extended play Shiny New Model – never shy away from self-critique. Opening their sophomore album with a dance-punk ode to identity, Hozie tries desperately to understand himself and the constant challenges NYC flings his way on ‘Thrown’. “My molecules change yet I remain / I weave and unweave my image.”
Atop an infectious twangy bassline courtesy of philosophy professor (and ‘de facto’ leader of BODEGA’s philosophy book club) Adam See, and Tai Lee’s percussive strikes, Hozie sneers at NYC’s culture of never-ending productivity in ‘Doer’, spitting out a Daft Punk-esque mantra that the city is maybe making him “bitter, harder, fatter, stressed out!” BODEGA’s sarcastic humour shines throughout their anthemic Beastie Boys/Run-DMC-style throwback (“Innovation waits for no man / Unless I lose my dongle!”), providing us with a New York slice of relatable satire.
Belfiglio takes on lead vocals for ‘Territorial Call of the Female’, dissecting female competition “because you know when the man is around / that’s when I’m putting you down.” Alternating between snarky and sweet with ease, Belfiglio’s expressionist vocalisation is complimented by Daniel Ryan’s angular new wave lead guitar lines and tone (referred to as the “insectoid” sound). This melodic sensibility continues on ‘NYC (disambiguation)’ with BODEGA taking a softer direction that is often at odds with their lyrical anger and disappointment; an honest look at NYC’s history.
Released in multiple languages prior to the LP’s release, ‘Statuette on the Console’ is another Belfiglio-sung highlight that ponders “anyone who puts their reality on your back and forces you to carry it around,” followed by the hip hop bounce of ‘C.I.R.P.’; Belfiglio and Hozie tag-teaming lyrics and wrestling media elitism whilst See, Lee, and Ryan provide ringside support with pulsating bass grooves, driving beats, and propulsive riffs.
The Cult-like love song ‘Pillar on the Bridge of You’ and The Velvet Underground inspired ‘All Past Lovers’ continue Hozie and Belfiglio’s journey of self-discovery in NYC, tackling relationships new and old, whilst ‘How Can I Help Ya?’, ‘No Blade of Grass’, and ‘Seneca The Stoic’ allow BODEGA to show off their rock and roll chops; Ryan shredding his way through the band’s ceaseless punk energy. But it is Broken Equipment’s closer, ‘After Jane’, that will leave a lasting impression.
Picking up the acoustic guitar, Hozie reflects honestly on his relationship with his mother for the album’s heartfelt final track; an emotionally raw realisation that after her death, her grace and pain now reside within him – “I’m channeling your hurt when I sing my songs” – It’s a sombre ending to an otherwise biting social satire, told through the ethos of punk rock.
BODEGA is a philosophical project and Broken Equipment is their latest thesis; an analysis of the changes occurring around us at an accelerated pace that directly inform our life experiences. Perhaps we’re the broken equipment.
Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana