On “Bodega Birth,” the second track from Brooklyn post-punk band Bodega’s debut full-length Endless Scroll, the band declares: “This is Bodega. This is documentary.” It’s true. Throughout the 15-track album the band dwells on our cultural artifacts, recording thoughts on Woody Guthrie, The Smith’s “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” defunct Brooklyn venue Palisades, Leonardo DiCaprio’s role as Jack in Titanic. The Brooklyn quintet is firmly rooted in the tradition of post-punk music – you can hear the influence in the barked vocals, the staccato guitar interruptions, the plodding drums, which are played in atypical fashion by standing drummer Montana Simone on a minimal kit with vocalist Nikki Belfiglio occasionally offering additional percussion. There’s a clear line to classics of the genre like Wire or Gang of Four, but Bodega maintains relevancy with an updated musical vocabulary and that focus on documentary of the current social climate.
Most clearly, Endless Scroll can be tied together by themes of a claustrophobic digital age. It’s present in the album’s title and the computerized voice that introduces the opening track and returns on “Bookmarks” with the detached interjection “I touch myself while staring at your text chat box.” That almost sarcastic post-modern wit is central to the lyricism throughout as well. Even at Bodega’s most sincere moments, like “Jack In Titanic,” where vocalist/guitarist Ben Hozie highlights masculine ideals through first-person aspirations, there’s a wry tone to the commentary. The lyrics on that track progress from “no one is as salty as the seven seas except me and Jack in Titanic” to the parody of “no one knows the cure for feral deadly disease except me and maybe Jack in Titanic.”
The power of the lyrical delivery, though, comes with much credit to the tightly interlocked grooves of the instrumentals. Particularly given the spoken inflection of the vocals and often repetitive rhythmic backing, Bodega likely takes more influence from hip-hop than the funk that inspired many early post-punk acts. Elsewhere, the band dabbles with dancey punk (the Belfiglio-fronted “Gyrate”), Velvet Underground malaise (“Charlie”), and noisy guitar rock (“Truth Is Not Punishment”). The fact that Austin Brown of the similarly musically-omnivorous punk band Parquet Courts produced the album is likely no coincidence.
Endless Scroll ends with “Truth Is Not Punishment,” a seeming declaration of the importance of this honest documentary through repetition of the title phrase. But the idea becomes less clear when realizing the first chorus is introduced “you asked me advice so I wrote you a lie: I typed ‘truth is not punishment.’” In a similar way the album speaks ambiguously throughout. At times seeming to comment neutrally, at times believably angry, and yet at other moments Bodega seems to be challenging the listener, or the society they’re commenting on, to take a side and admit fault or argue back. It’s this critical tension that serves as a key to making Endless Scroll such a strong debut.