As the name Technology suggests, Don Broco’s third studio album is a sharp, tongue-in-cheek take on the things that have infiltrated our daily lives over the past few years, from smart phones to Brexit to Trump’s fake news. Musically, Don Broco have always been a little difficult to pin down, flip flopping between the two components of pop and punk. They are happily at home in the pages of Kerrang! and among the billings of Slam Dunk, but with singles that are commercial enough to earn them plenty of Radio 1 airplay. Their newest LP takes the genre bending to the next level, with funk basslines, electronic dance beats and post hardcore rap lyrics all blended into an alternative rock album.
Title track ‘Technology’ feels like a valiant return to the band’s rock roots, reminiscent of their 2012 debut album Priorities. It’s a strong opener with cheeky put-down lyrics “I’ll be your friend but I can’t stand you now”, lamenting our social media obsessions. ‘Come Out to LA’ is a stand-out track for its poppy, staccato opening that descends into grimy, distorted rock. It’s not the most musically sophisticated song by a long stretch, but it’s take on the music industry is hooky enough to justify its release as a single. ‘Porkies’ is a furious, thumping middle finger to the politicians of the Brexit campaign. It features a moment of electronic vocal distortion, which could have been left out, but it’s still got power.
‘T-shirt song’ is an anthemic rock track that seems to be ready-made to slot into the band’s existing live sets. The heavy cowbell sounds are an interesting addition, but the rousing chorus pulls it back into very commercial territory. ‘Pretty’ plays around with Ska inspirations while ‘Greatness’ sounds almost like a holdover from 2015’s Automatic, with its 80s pop influences. ‘Stay Ignorant’ offers a take on fake news opening with a melodic funk bassline, that transforms into a guitar-heavy chorus. If that sounds like an uneasy musical transition, that’s because it is, remaining baffling even after a few listens.
Every time the album dips into slow melancholy, it soon pulls itself out with metallic guitar and head-banging drums. As a result, there are definitely some uneven moments that throw songs off-kilter, but at least make for unpredictable listening. There are no true ballads, but in a rock album that isn’t necessarily a weakness. ‘Tightrope’ is one of the most sincerely heartfelt moments with its screaming chorus that pleads for emotional support that just isn’t there, building to an atmospheric finish.
With each single, a whole range of comparisons spring to mind, from No Doubt to Enter Shikari. There was a strange moment during the opening of ‘Greatness’ that even brought to mind a Whitney Houston dance track. Nevertheless, what Technology reminds of most is Don Broco themselves. There’s a signature sound that runs through the whole record, possibly down to Rob Damiani’s distinctive vocals that range from a deep and mellow Simon LeBon soundalike to a screaming rock frontman. In an album where they’ve “thrown out all the rules”, there’s an essential formula to many of their songs, jerky rapped beginnings make way for heavy crashing choruses with echoing lyrics.
A 16 track album is a bold feat for any artist and there are definitely some weaker tracks which probably could have been cut, particularly at the back end of the record, ‘Something to Drink’ is particularly wearing after a while and ‘Got to Be You’ shows some promise but feels but frustratingly doesn’t reach its full potential. On the other hand, there are also many examples of songs which would hold their own as singles.
This is an album that wears its influences on its sleeve, running the danger of becoming scrappy mess in doing so, however it holds itself together well as a singular effort. Overall, Technology is a daring and mature evolution of the band’s sound, which keeps enough of Don Broco’s own identity to please loyal fans. The payoff for the risks remains to be seen, but it opens up the possibility for some very compelling future records.
– Sarah Roberts
Featured image courtesy of Chuff Media.