Trouser-splitting high kicks, synchronised dance routines, towering human pyramids, and ‘push-up squads’. These are just a few of the elements that make Don Broco's live shows explosive and unforgettable in equal measures. These sweaty, inclusive affairs have earned the Bedford quartet bigger and better stages, most recently Alexandra Palace, where they sold out their biggest show to date last November. Though Don Broco may have fallen short on record from time to time, rarely do they fail to impress with their live shows.
‘Technology’ is a record that has been purpose-built for doing exactly that. Muscular riffs, riot-inducing breakdowns, and ferocious choruses clock you around the head at every turn. The trouble is, it can be pretty dizzying when there’s no indication that the blow is coming. The title track goes from tepid verse to brutal chorus in the blink of eye, leaving you wondering how you got from A to B. ‘Porkies’ makes the leap from a noodly, Foals-borrowing guitar line to a hair-raising chorus without warning, while ‘Stay Ignorant’ descends into a breakdown that could belong to an entirely different song.
Admittedly, there are times when chucking in a thunderous riff doesn’t seem completely scattergun. On ‘Come Out To LA’ the band sets up a mocking tropical house introduction to the lyrics, “Come out to LA/ There’s people you should meet / There’s hands you should shake,” only to plough it down with a harsh, scuzz-drenched version of the same thing. It’s a clever punch aimed at the music industry’s jugular, especially with the closing remark “Bedford, where’s Bedford?”
Tongue-in-cheek lyrics are overshot elsewhere though. On the nursery rhyme chant of ‘Good Listener’, frontman Rob Damiani serves up his most elementary lyrics to date: “Talking to my Mum and she asks what I’m having for tea… chilli con carne”. But it’s the mawkish ‘T-Shirt Song’ that drags the album to its nadir. Dubbed by Damiani as “the most emotional song on the album,” the lyrics “They're saying there's one song left / No time for no regrets / I take my T-shirt off / Swing it around my head” indicate otherwise. Having orchestrated ‘push-up squads’ and human pyramids at shows in the past, it wouldn’t be far-fetched for Damiani to have written these lyrics envisaging what the next display of testosterone-fuelled antics would look like.
The album isn’t totally without merit, though. ‘The Blues’ is a highlight, harking back to the dark-hue and intricate layers debut album ‘Priorities’ specialised in. While, ‘Pretty’ and ‘Everybody’ are two of the strongest songs on the album, lyrically and structurally striking a balance between unconventional and cohesive. Perhaps, the only consistency across the album is Damiani’s vocal performance though. Switching between a creamy, dulcet tone and a robust, ferocious roar, the frontman stakes his claim as one of the most powerful and versatile vocalists in the genre.
If Don Broco set out to make a record that would allow them to deliver their most raucous live shows to date, they’ve almost certainly achieved that. However, the way ‘Technology’ compromises on solid songwriting in favour of material that’ll evoke carnage in a live setting is detrimental to the album as a whole. If they had looked to their previous two albums, they would have remembered that it wasn’t so long ago that they achieved both.
Words: Lisa Henderson
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