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“DD Review: The Garden – Mirror Might Steal Your Charm.”

Score: 9.5/10

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There’s lots of sort of cheap, readymade monikers you could throw at The Garden if you were being reductive: say, “Those guys who made that Beavis & Butthead-looking album cover in 2013,” or “The guys who opened for Mac Demarco a couple years ago and made everybody’s ears ring so they couldn’t even hear the headliner set.” Well, here’s another canned and smart-alecky quip you can now associate them with: “Best band on the planet.” Yup. That’ll REALLY pi** people off, probably even them.
2015’s Haha giggled in the result likely of some acid use [1] with some surf rock pretty similar to its predecessor The Life and Times of Paperclip’s, with perhaps a little more energy and gusto, um… SUFFICE IT TO SAY IN 2018 THEY’RE AS SICK OF SURF ROCK AS ANY SENTIENT BEING WOULD BE, to take nothing away from other Cali denizens like Thee Commons and Gein & the Gravediggers.
I think 2017 was sort of a good ol’ boy’s year: we got albums from all those heartwarming indie cowboys as Fleet Foxes, The National and Broken Social Scene, and of course the ever animal-loving, hippie-ingratiating Primus, the musical m.o. if not necessarily the semantic message of all of which seemed to sort of be a reversion, similar to the indie/folk revival adjacent to another political travesty, the war in Iraq. Really, in the whole year 2017, the only album I heard that was stylistically lockstep with the times was Lou Canon’s Suspicious, with the possible exception of Jlin’s Black Origami. Already in 2018, we’ve matched that total but it’s come in rock both times, sort of like a dance-floor mainstream butt rock of Jack White and “Corporation” and then… sigh… “Stallion,” of which the influences panic out like bees out of a kicked hive, from deep, entrenched post-Minor-Threat Cali hardcore to, oddly enough, a vocal style with the energy, tone and rush of Less than Jake’s Chris Demakes.
Like No Age AND Jack White’s old band, The Garden are a duo, and they sound like they don’t even have a key to get OUTSIDE their practicing studio, ironic given that they share a city of angels with Jane’s Addiction who were the constant butts of never-practicing jokes, even in Rolling Stone. He**, I heard the weather is too nice there to be inside [2]. Listening to them, and knowing this, you will just kind of lower your head in dour astonishment.
But then, this is music that had to be made. It is advancing the territory of hardcore punk rock with a vague but throaty death metal feel to it, these guitars bleeding with way more reverby gunk than ol’ man MacKaye could ever manage. But by “Make a Wish,” we’ve forayed into dance-rock, a programmed, sort of disco-y hat-heavy beat flanking the situation under a Fruity Loops organ run which is way trippier than it has any right being. Vocally, we kids in the aural candy shop come upon a veritable kicking of it old school, as a rap ensues (I apologize but none of these stupid sites say which one is the singer, so I won’t worry about it), with lyrics that are angular but bitingly universal, as if, like Dean Allen Spunt in No Age, he’s so firmly embedded in a state of addled, misanthropic hopelessness that irony and earnestness have become one and the same. But also like Spunt, he has the perfect voice for this apocalyptic music. “Shameless Shadow” is a disorienting pastiche of everything from expressionist organ classical to hardcore, possibly in that right being the first ever song to combine those exact two elements. The band sound like different humans entirely on this cut from the two prior. Other tracks show off rhythmic chops and that former surf rock spirit they wielded thankfully updated, the extant shocker coming in a song whose title is an emojo, “:(,” and rips along like a funky Dismemberment Plan on, well, more Dismemberment Plan. I don’t think anybody’s going to complain about that, now are we? ARE WE?
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[1] I was living in the extremely conservative, alcohol-oriented South Bend, Indiana in 2015 and vastly underestimated the amount of tripping Americans do these days.
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[2] I wonder if The Garden is named after the song from LA’s Liars “The Garden Was Crowded and outside,” similar to the phenomenon of The Black Angels and Elephant Stone each being named after another band’s songs, two bands which amusingly enough are actually sharing bills this spring with the Black Lips.

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