Reviews

Don Broco’s ‘Technology’ is unpredictable, unapologetic and an absolute blast

Technology is a child running a marathon. It sprints when its told to keep a steady pace. It zigs and zags for the thrill of it. It gets distracted by a squirrel. It trips and tumbles once or twice. It slows, but it never stops moving.

I started rewatching Season 1 of HBO’s Westworld last week. Given the 17-month gap between seasons, coupled with the cerebral diligence the show asks of its viewers, I wanted a refresher before Season 2 drops in April.

I won’t spoil the show, but in short, it explores a Western-themed amusement park catered to rich vacationers and populated by robots (called hosts on Westworld).

In episode 2, a Westworld programmer examines the psychological makeup of Maeve, one of the park’s hosts. Using a tablet-like device, the programmer scans through Maeve’s various attributes — aggression, intuition, etc. — before bumping up her “bulk apperception” with one swipe of the finger.

This is exactly how I imagined Don Broco creating Technology, the Bedford rockers’ third proper full-length, which dropped Feb. 2.

I pictured the lads, iPads in hand, staring down the elements of their sonic identity, the components that made 2015’s Automatic such a smash — pop sensibility, heavy breakdowns, killer grooves, subtle electronics, irresistibly catchy melodies and singalong choruses.

Then, I imagine them amplifying the shit out of each one.

And so, we have Technology, a 59-minute melting pot of sounds and styles that makes little sense on paper (or on a tablet screen, for that matter) but somehow coalesces into a brilliant corker of a record. It’s catchy. It’s heavy (boy, is it heavy). It’s unpredictable, it’s unapologetic, and it’s an absolute blast.

Technology is a child running a marathon. It sprints when its told to keep a steady pace. It zigs and zags for the thrill of it. It gets distracted by a squirrel. It trips and tumbles once or twice. It slows, but it never stops moving.

Rob Damiani is a powerhouse frontman, leaning on his falsetto often — maybe a bit too often — but balancing it out with aggression I’ve only heard from him in live performances. Guitarist Simon Delaney shines, with more space to riff around on this record’s heavier sonic palette. Drummer Matt Donnelly assumes more of an ancillary vocal role this time around, having spent most of Automatic sharing hooks with Damiani. Still, he gets a few sections of his own, usurping Damani on the über-2018 pop hit “Come Out to LA,” which the band hilariously plays up in that single’s music video. Bassist Tom Doyle, arguably the MVP of Automatic, also takes more of a back seat on TechnologyFor all the elements Don Broco amplified, it dials down the funk influence that made Automatic so groovy. They traded head-bobbers for head-bangers, and — as a result — Doyle feels regrettably underutilized this time around.

Technology also sees Don Broco enlisting a more experimental approach in both composition and studio flair.

Song structures never quite settle in by conventional standards; breakdowns burst in unannounced like the Kool-Aid Man. Producer Dan Lancaster’s stellar work behind the mixing board leaves a steady diet of synth and vocal samples throughout. Technology is full of sounds you’ve never heard before.

Sonic cohesion feels irrelevant at times, but I think that’s the point. Technology sounds like a band evolving, or at least a band trying to. And taking a more experimental approach must have been liberating — you can tell these guys had a riot creating Technology.

In that regard, Don Broco has succeeded, but moments of ingenuity are accompanied by moments that don’t land quite as firmly. Songs like “Greatness,” “Good Listener” and “Something to Drink” would have been serviceable B-sides or deluxe edition bonus tracks. I enjoy them, but I think Don Broco could have been more economical, particularly on a 16-song record.

That being said, my major gripe with this record is the singles — all six (!) of them, to be exact. By October, the band had dropped practically the entire front third of the record. Hell, they released “Everybody” in 2016.

For reference, here’s the track listing (singles marked with release dates):

  1. Technology (July 17, 2017)
  2. Stay Ignorant (October 6, 2017)
  3. T-Shirt Song (October 31, 2017)
  4. Come Out to LA (January 5, 2018)
  5. Pretty (May 5, 2017)
  6. The Blues
  7. Tightrope
  8. Everybody (July 29, 2016)
  9. Greatness
  10. Porkies
  11. Got to Be You
  12. Good Listener
  13. ¥
  14. Something to Drink
  15. Blood in the Water
  16. Potty Mouth

The singles, undoubtedly, are bangers — “T-Shirt Song” and “Technology” feel like the heartbeat of this record. But with so many tracks released so early, it’s hard to judge the album as a whole, particularly when you don’t hear a fresh track until around the 20-minute mark. That perception could change in time, but for now I’m left listening to Technology in two parts: “the singles” and “the second half.”

All in all, Technology sounds like a band’s conscious decision to not make the same album twice. I support that whole-heartedly, and am willing to forgive a few skippable songs and a handful of WTF-is-going-on moments in the process.

If that’s the price of evolution, I’ll pay it every time.


Quick hits:

The epitome of Technology: “T-Shirt Song”

Favorite song: Of the non-singles, it’s a toss-up between “The Blues” and “Tightrope.” Overall, I’d pick “The Blues,” but “Tightrope” ventures into some dark, emotive territory that I’ve never heard from Don Broco.

Should’ve been a B-side: “Greatness”

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