Porridge Radio – Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers (Memorials of Distinction)

When I write about Porridge Radio I want to talk about anything but the music. I want to ramble a bit about existentialism and why I like The Brothers Karamazov so much. I want to mention Neutral Milk Hotel (“how strange it is to be anything at all”), Belle & Sebastian (“it takes more than milk to get rid of the taste”) and The Marine Girls (“mariiiine giiirls”), all of which Porridge Radio remind me. I want to type down a stream of consciousness of what I’m thinking just now like they used to do, without paragraphs or punctuation. I want to list all the foods mentioned in Porridge Radio’s music, including ‘orange juice, biscuits’ which are listen as their sole interests on Facebook. I want to bring up how weird they are in interviews.

But not the music. It’s too confusing. (See, now I’m  writing about the music all the same. Shit). Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers is a big frickin’ storm of anger, fear, wonder and acceptance, and it makes me want to stay in my room for the rest of the day. It’s a gaze into the abyss, a “life’s meaningless so you might as well…”. It’s an attack from the first minute, when Dana Margolin shouts with visceral emotion, rolling drums accompanying her: “the first thing I can do when I wake up in the morning on any given day is say hello! I am alive! / but I do not do this I stumble out of bed confused and upset that the world exists / and so do I!”. It’s a wonderful tangled mess of feelings and responses, a bedroom record too big for the bed, and frankly among the very best things I’ve heard since I’m alive.

If I were to write about Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers  – but I’m not, or at least I’m in denial – I would write about my favourite tracks called ‘Eugh’ and ‘Sorry’. ‘Sorry’ ends with a terrifying primal scream. That ‘oooooh’ comes at the end of a song about depression and giving up (“I’m sorry oh I’m sorry, but I tried”), but contains so, so much strength. It is the core paradox of Porridge Radio: the push and pull between the paralysing panic at an overwhelming world, and the liberating anger this causes. Strangely empowering. In this way it reminds me of PJ Harvey’s early albums, on which she oscillates between fascination and repulsion at her body. And in the same vein, Porridge Radio have described their music as: “songs about self loathing / songs about self loving”.

The last track on the album, ‘Eugh’, is quieter and compellingly misleading. The Marine Girls surf-pop guitar and ‘doo doo doo doo’ hum almost make it sound cheery! But of course Dana is shouting “DON’T BE A JERK!” and just imagine singing along to that. “Don’t be a jerk”, a little bit louder and more desperate each time, Porridge Radio understand repetition, the focus and unfocus of repetition, the desire and the losing grip and the fixation of repetition repeating repeating.

I should stop right there. I wasn’t gonna write about Porridge Radio and I’m not going to. Too bad I already did. Sometimes there is no time for reflection, it’s all excitement, it’s all about being on the wrong track, all the interpretations (nothing makes sense) and meta-interpretations (everything makes sense). If Porridge Radio’s music was a plate of food – a bowl of breakfast porridge, why not? – I would shove it down your throat and laugh when it comes out your nose. So there. Listen to this. Don’t say I haven’t warned you about what it does to your world. Then listen again.

-- Caspar Jacobs, August 29, 2016