Album Review: Porridge Radio – Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky

The Brighton art-punks pick up their own buzz where they left it as they return with the painful, heartfelt, extraordinary sound of 2022

If the pandemic had an anthem, it might have been ‘Back To The Radio’. Written way, way back in 2020 and released last February, it’s a track that now feels strangely out of time and place, a last gasp of unsanitised sentiment from a time when everyone was “locking all the windows and marching up the stairs”. 

Back then, Brighton’s Porridge Radio were on the cusp of being everyone’s new favourite indie band. Second album Every Bad was on every Best Of list around, the buzz was building to a roar and lead singer Dana Margolin was telling NME that she wanted her band to be the new Coldplay. But plans change.

Porridge Radio - Back To The Radio (Official Video)

With the music suddenly switched off, ‘Back To The Radio’ became Porridge Radio’s lament for the band they were about to become – writing big festival-sized choruses for fields that would now stand empty. “I miss everything now, we’re worth nothing at all…” sings Margolin, her voice cracking into a cry.

Now past the point of regret, Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky is an album full of frustration. Singing just beyond her own range on purpose, Margolin’s extraordinary voice bleeds pent-up sadness about the pain of being alone, of being together, of not wanting to be touched, of needing to be touched and of barely making it through the last few years. 

Mixing post-punk, slowcore and low-fi with big indie hooks, Margolin’s stabs of self-loathing cut through big, messy emotions on an album that now feels rooted in the here and now. “Don’t know if it’s worth it, I don’t want to go back”, she sings on the aptly named ‘End Of Last Year’, a mood that sums up the feeling of the whole album, and the whole of 2022 – stuck halfway out the door and not knowing why.

Porridge Radio - End Of Last Year (Official Video)

Replacing one unused anthem with a new one that feels far too caustic for anyone to actually sing out loud, ‘Birthday Party’ turns a panic sweat breakdown into a self-isolation mantra, repeating the line “I don’t want to be loved” over and over until it stops hurting. 

“I need to say things out loud to hear them, to understand if I agree with them,” Margolin told The New York Times, speaking about the many repeated phrases on the album – including the title. “I need to hear it and say it again and again, because I need to have a space to process what it is that I am saying. Singing is a space where I can do that with my whole body, and I can share it.”

Flickers of inspiration linger from recent covers of Wolf Parade, The Shins and Leonard Cohen, but Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky signals Porridge Radio’s second coming on their own terms. Never standing in anyone’s shadow but their own, the final title track ends in a defeat that feels far more genuine than any sense of victory. “No, I don’t want the end, And I don’t want the beginning”. Keep the album on repeat throughout 2022 and you’ll get both at the same time.

Porridge Radio are playing Latitude and Bluedot festivals this July, before starting their own UK tour in October. Tickets are currently available for all dates here.