Arts, Music

Broods Refuse to Stray from Comfort Zone in ‘Pop Monster’

Broods want to make it clear that they’re never selling out. The New Zealand sibling duo’s third album, Don’t Feed the Pop Monster, remains firmly rooted in the same comfortable territory that they’ve always occupied. The problem is, when the band first emerged on the music scene, their minimal electro sound was a fresh innovation that distinguished them from the stale pop that dominated the charts. Now, five years after the release of their first album, music has moved forward and they’ve failed to catch up. Their refusal to budge from the style that defined their earlier albums in Don’t Feed the Pop Monster isn’t a noble attempt to stay authentic—it’s just plain lazy.

The album opens with “Sucker,” an underwhelming piece of ’80s synth-pop. Hammering drums and lo-fi electro flourishes accompany lead vocalist Georgia Nott’s ruminations on the shaky relationship between trends and individuality. “I catch the bug, get sick, get well,” she sighs, creating an intriguing comparison between jumping on trends and catching a cold, but Broods ends up leaning too heavily on this bit of brilliance, repeating the phrase “get sick, get well” dozens of times until it loses its poignancy.

“Why Do You Believe Me?” is, lyrically, a vulnerable outpouring of loneliness. Lines like “Why do you believe me when I say I’m in control? / I don’t wanna sleep tonight and feel nothing at all” would hit home, if not for the heavy distortion of Georgia’s voice that obscures any hint of emotional depth. Her words are synthesized and warped so much that they’re barely intelligible. It’s overproduced for no reason—the lack of substance isn’t compensated for by any notable style.

Broods obviously intended for “Peach” to be the crowning jewel of the album. It’s fun, glossy, and sounds like something you’d hear strolling through Forever 21. Once again, any possible emotional impact is quashed by all the bells and whistles, but “Peach” is so catchy that it hardly matters. The track takes inspiration from house music with syncopated wonky piano in the pre-chorus before launching into a shouty, meaningless chorus.

The first real sense of momentum comes with “Everytime You Go,” an angsty address to an emotionally distant lover that’s livened up by a clattering beat and jumpy bass guitar. The addition of Caleb Nott’s supporting vocals in the chorus adds richness, while glitchy techno elements and twinkly piano interludes bring a fresh eclecticism. Georgia’s voice is desperate and soulful in the bridge, creating a genuine emotional peak.

Caleb reluctantly comes into the spotlight in “Too Proud” as he sings about his real-life struggles with depression. It’s curious that the duo doesn’t make use of his voice more often—the interplay between his deep rasp and Georgia’s wispy, ethereal sighs is one of the most interesting elements of the song.

“To Belong” is about two minutes too long. The lyrics feel stale, and it seems that in an effort to liven things up, Broods shoved in disparate elements—church choir-style wailing, electro flourishes, a strange halting beat—but they fall flat as cheap gimmicks.

Broods throw us a curveball with “Old Dog.” Stylistically, it’s nowhere near any of the other tracks on the album—and that’s a good thing. Dripping with attitude, from its jangly beat and distorted guitar grooves to its sassy “nah nahs” and fun take on ’90s riot grrrl punk, it’s nothing like Broods have ever done, but it sure is convincing.

The duo continues its stylistic experimentation with “Hospitalized,” a dazzling disco-inspired confection with a stomping beat. Georgia manically rips through the chorus with self-destructive glee, showing off a flirty new facet to her vocal style. “This bass is nutritious / Tasty and delicious” she coos in the bridge. It’s laughably cheesy, but she goes about it so earnestly that it’s hard not to get on board.

Things take a metaphysical turn in the final track, “Life After,” a wistful, dreamy impression of the afterlife. The rhythm is swaying, the melody is achingly sweet, and a lazy, thundering beat underscores it all. It’s a graceful finish to a largely unsatisfying album.

Don’t Feed the Pop Monster is bogged down by vapid, opaque lyrics and endless repetitions of the same production elements. Lead vocalist Georgia fails to utilize the full emotional range of her unique voice, instead reverting back to the same whispery tone on nearly every track. The few times that the duo is brave enough to truly step out of their comfort zone—on “Old Dog,” for example—magic happens. But all in all, Broods fail to make a thorough commitment to moving its sound forward

Featured Image by Neon Gold Records

February 5, 2019