Bodega burst onto the post-punk scene in July 2018. Teeming with style and homages as overt as The B-52s and Gang of Four, the Brooklyn-based band’s debut album, Endless Scroll displayed an intelligent, witty group with a fully formed catalog of ideas. “Your playlist knows you better than a closest lover,” sings Ben Hozie on “How Did This Happen?!,” a biting take on the guilt of “the cultural consumer.” In “I Am Not A Cinephile,” Bodega challenges the systems of imperialism, racism, misogyny, and capitalism that allowed the universe of Alfred Hitchcock to be filmed. Co-vocalist Nikki Belfiglio channels riot-grrrl energy in an ode to female pleasure in “Gyrate.” Album highlight, “Truth Is Not Punishment” has two appearances (Long and Short) on the band’s new EP, Shiny New Model.
Endless Scroll quickly established Bodega as a band that questions oppressive systems, male idols, and consumerism. After a year of touring, the making of Shiny New Model marked a series of firsts for the band. It’s the only recording session they’ve had in a studio, the first recording with new drummer Tai Lee (previously a performer in the show STOMP), and the band handled production for the first time. On Shiny New Model, Bodega presents a new bunch of questions. This time around, there’s even more ground to cover.
The lush opener “Shiny New Model” is introduced by a Siri-esque voice stating, “We will be replaced by a shiny new model.” The vocal interplay between Hozie and Benfiglio is instantly comfortable, and they shine alongside ringing riffs. With lead guitarist Madison Velding Vandam taking the reins as a producer, Bodega has never sounded this impassioned. Remaining solely in the present, “Shiny New Model” comments on the sadness of modern-day consumption. Nothing is as simple as swiping left or right.
“In any moment I could change everything, maybe/but habits have a hold on us all,” Hozie stresses on “Treasures Of The Ancient World.” Led by a jangly refrain, the real stars lay within the rhythm section that is Heather Elle on bass, Lee drumming, and Hozie on rhythm guitar. While the rhythm section sounds huge, the multi-tracked guitars don’t quite get there. Look no further than “No Vanguard Revival” to see where the guitars are lacking the power they demand. The distorted lead should be charged with fury; it should be as urgent as the band’s energy.
On the other hand, while “Realism” isn’t as immense as it could be, that works in the song’s favor. Against Elle’s bass in the spotlight, Hozie relinquishes some of his satirical nature and wears his heart on his sleeve, telling a story we all know well: “she’s tearing up photos to tear up his body,” something increasingly difficult in the digital age. Benfiglio takes the lead on “Domesticated Animal,” sporting the kind of assertiveness Kate Pierson would be proud of. Introducing a drum machine for the first time, Bodega signals a bigger, shimmering sonic direction. Benfiglio alludes to “Gyrate” with calls to self-sustainability, yet she remains filled with indignation: “please let me please myself” and “I need to be a woman I desire.”
Shiny New Model ends with two versions of an old song, “Truth Is Not Punishment.” In “Truth Is Not Punishment,” Hozie addresses reality through his mother’s eyes, through the eyes of “a writer with an anxiety complex” and through his own. Capturing the band’s extraordinary live shows is no easy feat, but by making “Truth Is Not Punishment (Long)” ten minutes long, Bodega become an animalistic jam band right in the studio. Cue in a catchy groove to announce the next act of the song, and then just wait for a ripping solo from Velding Vandam. “Truth Is Not Punishment (Long)” never feels ten minutes long.
As “Truth Is Not Punishment” rollicks on, Hozie cuts through the human prisons detaining us all. “What is most sad of all is that I never want to leave my imprisonment,” he says. Lying about your own happiness (“you said that ‘I’m happy’ but I know you and I know that you aren’t”) or taking prescription depression medication “shown on TV/costs as much as eighteen plays” is no life we want for anyone we love, let alone ourselves.
Shiny New Model does an amazing job of ticking off an abundance of firsts while expanding on Bodega’s core sounds and themes. Utilizing primal drum beats and adding extra harmonies for Hozie and Benfiglio (“Knife On A Platter”) has also worked a treat. Last year, Paste Magazine included Bodega as one of “15 New York City buzz bands you need to know”. With Shiny New Model, the band has ditched the Parquet Courts comparisons – most likely lumped on them after Austin Brown produced Endless Scroll – and continue to carve out a niche of their own.