A beast has been prowling Bedford. Four likely lads – the makeup of pop/rock outfit and meme-worthy music makers Don Broco – have been the undercurrent of an already dormant UK rock scene, but already the new year has marked their deserved breakout that has been foreshadowed for the past 18 months.
Broco’s sophomore record Automatic was an undeniable success. Almost completely overhauling a style that they hadn’t quite accomplished with their debut Priorities (albeit a fairly strong record), the second record experimented with smooth sounds to accompany the general bravado of the ‘Cheeky Nando’s of the music scene’. But with Technology, the Bedford quartet have almost revisited the burgeoning riffs of their past to add some straight-laced, aggressive testosterone to the now-established funk rock that governed much of Automatic‘s accomplished appeal.
‘Taking all of Automatic’s greatest elements and adding more commendable fan favourite moments onto their pre-existing idiosyncrasies has culminated in Broco’s finest work to date.’
A long time in the making, clearly the band’s switch to Sharptone Records and injecting of heroin into Automatic‘s signature tones has paid dividends. An onslaught of exceptionally strong singles – Everybody, Pretty, Technology, Stay Ignorant – had kept the UK rock scene on the edge of a fucking cliff, as it endured an excruciating wait for an album consisting of these, matched with more instant ragers; clearly the boys can’t produce anything that isn’t a floor-filling poppy pit anthem.
This is exactly what we’ve now been gifted. Any of the 16 cuts (they made us wait, but boy did they make up for it) could’ve made a pre-album release, with bizarre music mini-film accompaniment. That’s correct; the strange Square Dance-inducing visuals of Everybody was the start at which Broco became the pinnacle of tongue-in-cheek British musical humour, yet avoiding any ridicule by delivering tracks that are as brilliant as they are bombastic. The early days of four young musicians hoping to make a viral video riding around Bedford’s suburban housing estates in their mum’s car for Thug Workout has manifested in a completely different way with their access to a higher budget, but Broco’s clinging onto their obscure teenage in-jokes is still what makes the character of this band prevail alongside the music. Thug Workout, indeed, remains a staple of the setlist, with swathes of die-hard fans continuing to do circle pit press-ups a decade on.
The musical aspect is certainly another evolution. Rob Damiani’s exceedingly rich vocals and general frontman swagger now seem fully formed, seconded only by the slightly higher-pitched and complimentary hooks of drummer Matt Donnelly, whose abilities have been capitalised more on Technology, particularly the main verse of Come Out to LA, where the death of Damiani in the accompanying video jokingly makes Donnelly the lead singer that Broco always wanted. The bass work courtesy of Tom Doyle has always been exquisite: the outro to Pretty (complete with synths), the gloomy simplicity of Porkies, and the crazed slapping present in the extremely rogue track Good Listener display the band’s ability to channel Automatic‘s funk licks through a black hole as if the listener is partying at some sort of dark Lynchian nightclub.
‘Clearly the boys can’t produce anything that isn’t a floor-filling poppy pit anthem.’
When it comes to the guitar work, Simon Delaney’s signature hushed verses and humongous chorus riff dichotomy has once again been amplified, and completely literally this time ’round. Almost acting like the band’s hype man wielding only his instrument, Delaney is an expert at the short-and-sweet main riff, dropping them intermittently alongside Doyle’s pulsing bass and occasional cow-bell grooves (see Greatness), letting the other members shine until he’s needed to let rip as if his life depends on it, and levelling every venue with his increased gravitation towards a life of distortion. The bouncy breakdowns as established in ¥, or Blood in the Water show the heavier aspects of Broco’s aesthetic which are sprinkled into the concoction with aplomb rather than heavy-handedly crow-barred merely for the live setting.
The occasional synth work and poppy aspects work as both sarcastic piss-take as well as perfect accompaniments to the record’s overall sound. Something to Drink‘s almost blues-inspired moments should sound like a joke, even more so with the vocal sampling akin to Imagine Dragons or the start of J. Cole’s G.O.M.D., but the melding of different sounds has never seemed a problem for Broco. Even laughable moments of lyricism – chatting up a girl who turns out to be quite xenophobic in Pretty, or Damianu’s dislike of his parent’s chilli con carne in Good Listener – they work due to the polished and confident execution and catchiness which allow these boys to get away with anything they want.
And this is completely deserved. Taking bloody ages to follow up such a monumental second effort, taking all of Automatic‘s greatest elements and just adding more commendable fan favourite moments onto their pre-existing idiosyncrasies, has culminated in easily their finest work to date. It’s only another notch in this band’s steady rise in the UK scene, and as they end the record with the chant “Don’t give a fuck about nothin’ / don’t give a fuck about you”, it now seems even more impossible for you to not give a fuck about one of Britain’s most original and accomplished bands.