It’s been four years since the NYC art punk outfit BODEGA wowed the world with their outstanding debut studio album, Endless Scroll, but that doesn’t mean Ben Hozie and company haven’t been busy in the interim. In 2019, the band delivered their first live collection, Witness Scroll, as well as an EP titled Shiny New Model, which featured six unreleased songs and a reworking of a track from their debut. But wait, there’s more! 2020 saw the release of PVT Chat, a feature film written, directed, shot, and edited by Hozie which featured members of the band and starred current Ye paramour, Julia Fox. Which brings us to Broken Equipment, the sophomore full-length BODEGA fans have been patiently waiting for.
On Broken Equipment, BODEGA lean hard into the exceptional pop hooks that made Endless Scroll such an infectious listen, and the results are wonderful. “Thrown”, the album’s opener, hits fast and hard, delivering a danceable post-punk groove over which Hozie delivers lines like, “We’re thrown, not here by chance, and I’m surrounded by bureaucrats.” Adam See sounds as if he’s almost pulling the bass strings off his ax, and the song wraps up with a jazzy piano moment reminiscent of The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah”. The bass work during Broken Equipment’s outset was just a warmup, however, as See’s instrument takes centerstage on “Doers”, a rumbling, rollicking valentine to NYC creatives. Up to this point on the album, Nikki Belfiglio has served as Hozie’s hype person, but she commandeers the mic for “Territorial Call of the Female”. Nikki’s vocals are unbridled during the song’s verses as she shouts, coos, purrs, and growls over the groove. It’s a decent moment, but her best one is still forthcoming.
Broken Equipment’s second cluster of songs find the band taking a slight breather. A tense, steady bass drum thumps along as “NYC (Disambiguation)” finds Hozie giving us a history lesson on New York. As if to bring us back to the present, the track is concluded with the bing-bong subway sound that has become trendy with TikTokers. “Statuette On the Console” is another Belfiglio-sung track, and it’s one of the record’s finest songs. In just over two minutes, BODEGA grind out this speedy punk number complete with a warped guitar solo snaking through.
“Pillar on the Bridge” utilizes a slightly distorted, flanged guitar effect that brings to mind the opening bars of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary”. The song may be Broken Equipment’s most mainstream, as Hozie’s voice sounds more controlled than it has up to this point, and the composition is built on a traditional pop song structure. If “Pillar on the Bridge” and its sister song “How Can I Help Ya?” had BODEGA splashing around in more pedestrian waters stylistically, the cold “No Blade of Grass” yanks us out and drops us back onto concrete. “One of these days, and it won’t be long, gonna wish you had a holy cow,” Hozie sings during the song’s chorus, bemoaning the proliferation of dystopic tropes.
The album’s penultimate track, “Seneca the Stoic”, adopts a twisty, DEVO-esque chord structure. That BODEGA hasn’t borrowed from the Akron legends prior to this point is a credit to their seemingly bottomless well of original ideas. Regardless, BODEGA manage to make the moment their own as they cleverly build tension until the track is swallowed by static. Broken Equipment is concluded with “After Jane”, the LP’s only ballad. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, minimal drumming, and a bass, Ben Hozie sings a song to his mother. “Remember the visit on Christmas Eve when you didn’t recognize who I was? Thought it was an act of playing your son, quiz me I got right every one,” he sings plaintively. The lyrics throughout “After Jane” are so honest and sad, reflecting on addiction, pain, and the parts of a person you’re born from that carry into you. The song makes for a memorable, albeit wistful, closer.
With Broken Equipment, BODEGA walk away from their first album’s idiosyncrasies and embrace their pop inclinations without abandoning the eccentricities that make their sound unique. Fortunately, the group still have plenty of good ideas, most of which encourage you to get on the dancefloor. If you listen to one art punk album released in the first quarter of 2022, you can’t do much better than Broken Equipment.