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Review: Porridge Radio

REVIEW

Porridge Radio

West Hill Hall, Brighton ★★★★✩

THE BBC’s Sound Of 2019 poll list was revealed last week and its three British acts sound ready-made for the commercial mainstream they will almost certainly join. Yet from the 1960s to the 1990s, a different spirit animated much of the British pop that made it to the big time. That kind of music is unruly and headstrong: you still hear it in pubs, clubs and halls, from acts such as Brighton post-punk quartet Porridge Radio, droll in performance and stinging in song.

The best bands look like gangs and this one looks like a gang of misfits gathered together for safety. Leader Dana Margolin turns anxiety, dissociation and compulsive self-hectoring into an oblique, unsettling kind of art — not so much stream-of-consciousness as a barrage from the unconscious. ‘I’m a child writing letters to myself,’ she sings, and her strange, staccato songs, with their sweet, harmonised verses and staggering choruses augmented by capering bandmates, feel like it.

It takes real craft to give so fascinating a sense of teetering perpetually at the brink of collapse without ever going over it. Danger, risk, surprise, absurdity, dark humour: these are the elements conspicuously lacking in all those solemn, polished new acts. They’re also the ones that define Porridge Radio.