The Garden

(CD - Burger Records / Epitaph #87434)

Review by Paul Simpson

Following their 2013 album The Life and Times of a Paperclip, identical twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears toured the world and released numerous recordings under their respective solo projects, Enjoy and Puzzle. Those projects (particularly Puzzle) are more synth-based than the no wave-influenced punk of the Garden, and the duo's Epitaph debut Haha finds them incorporating more electronic and hip-hop elements into their sound. The lo-fi guitar noise of their earlier recordings is generally replaced by atmospheric synths and more cleanly produced bass guitar; "Egg" even has a rhapsodic piano melody. The most startling addition to their sound is the crashing drum'n'bass breakbeats on tracks like "Jester's Game" and "Cloak," recalling punk/jungle hybrids like Atari Teenage Riot but without the politically charged fury. The songs here are far more developed than the simplistic one-line jokes of their previous album; unlike that one, there are only a couple of songs on here ("Crystal Clear," "We Be Grindin'") whose lyrics primarily consist of the title repeated over and over. When the group sticks to bass guitar and drums, as on "Vexation," there's more of a Cramps/early B-52's flavor than before. The Garden definitely benefit from the switch to a bigger label, as their songwriting skills, musicianship, and production values have equally improved. Even with its flippant title, Haha is easily the most ambitious, fleshed-out album the Garden has produced so far, and shows the remarkable amount of progress the duo has made.

blue highlight denotes track pick