Review by Marianna Kaimakliotis
The Garden's new record, HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66, their fifth album, was released earlier this month on Vada Vada as the band’s first independent release.
The Garden hails from California, and is made up of twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears. Their independent label Vada Vada is named after their self-described music style “Vada Vada”, which to them means “complete freedom of expression without boundaries or guidelines.” This philosophical approach to songwriting can be heard in most of their discography, not-excluding their new release. In general, HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66 doesn’t differ from their standard approach much: it exhibits tongue-in-cheek punk-styled vocals set to drum'n'bass and muddied guitar. Ultimately, it's a chaotically fun ride.
The songs on H0R66 are free flowing and organic, with a playfully strange atmosphere. The vocals and riffs seem to appear in a stream-of-consciousness manner, as if each song was moving you through some haunted house that had its own central theme song. In this album, effects and tonal shifts come in, they come out, they move behind you, and the song moves on. Their first song on the album, “Haunted House on Zillow,” includes a soundbite of a woman explaining that there are 'ghosts' in a house, followed by some 60s surf scooby-doo level sonics, punching up the spooky and theatrical elements of their sound. Theatrics come easy to The Garden, whose album cover shows the brothers in studded leather and dolled up with white face paint, giving a sort of rockabilly meets mime look. The boys clearly don’t take much too seriously, but that's far from a bad thing.
Horseshit on Route 66 is as fun and as it is experimental, as The Garden usually gets with their hallmark mix of metal, punk, and other alternative sounds. Their singles from the album ("Freight Yard;" "Orange County Punk Rock Legend;" "Chainsaw the Door") are an interesting picks as they stand apart in genre/production from most of the other songs. "Freight Yard" feels more “radio” friendly, if The Garden could be called that, with a production that distinguishes the song's DnB elements from their vocals, which exhibit their speak-singing style alongside some reverb; it's less avant-grade and more gothic, melodic, and lo-fi. This differed sound is heard especially when contrasted with “Squished Face Slick Pig Living in a Smokey City” - opening with eerie cackling and moving through with a dissonant arrangement and lyricism that evoking images of, well, a squished face slick pig. Elsewhere, "Orange County Punk Rock Legend" has a poppy, classic surf-indie rock sound with high treble and a static buzz, set against some 90s alt shout-singing. The Garden’s ability to move through experimentation in genre and to bend sounds together forms a collection of interesting, original songs that feel easy to listen to while remaining not too serious and fresh. It's clear that the brothers enjoy making what they make and will probably keep putting out interesting, consistent music that exceeds expectation.
Earlier this month, Erin Christie caught The Garden on the first night of their current tour. Check out her coverage of the Brooklyn Steel gig below.