If you are familiar with The Garden, then you’ll have an opinion on them – you’ll either love them or loathe them. Strangely enough, the reasons for loving or hating them are exactly the same but it just depends on your personality. The androgynous Orange County twins are probably most recognised for their modelling work with Heidi Slimane, which often leaves their brash brand of over-too-soon electro-punk in the shadows.
The release of their new album ‘haha’ is their music appearing from the shadows and bursting into the light. The twins, Fletcher and Wyatt Shears, also said that music was their main focus and modelling was just a bit of fun on the side, but it’s hard to take their previous work too seriously – 2013’s The Life and Times of a Paperclip was a 16-track album that lasted under 20 minutes, with most songs just consisting of random words and squeals over Wyatt’s throbbing bass and Fletcher’s electric drums.
There was a sense that The Garden were just messing around and having fun without totally caring about the end result and this has by no means isn’t diminished from haha, it’s just that the assumed jokes are presented in a much more conventional and serious way through a more melodic and accessible approach. Two songs even reach the three-minute mark! This alludes to haha being a more structured affair that could potentially enable them to broaden their fanbase.
The idiosyncratic Garden of old is still present in places – from the nonsensical lyrics to the random bursts of eccentric electronica, but it’s clear through the remastering of old cuts such as Crystal Clear, Cloak, and Devour that they wanted to create a proper album that flows well. Staying true to Garden ideals, however, this album is just 34 minutes long despite boasting a majestic 17 tracks. Having said that, it is by far The Garden‘s longest release to date. And their most accomplished.
Emoticon age-embracing album opener All Smiles Over Here 🙂 sees twins at their most confident and demanding. “This is my life and this is how I choose to live it” explains Wyatt, possibly referencing the disapproval from conservative heads of their cross-dressing. The sass of All Smiles… comes juxtaposed to The Garden broadening their emotional and sonical horizons on I Guess We’ll Never Know which sees them dabble with melancholic uncertainty.
Most impressive of all, though, is immediate standout track Egg. It’s the closest thing The Garden have ever released to an actual pop song. It’s cinematic and addictive, but, most importantly, it’s fun, despite a fragile-yet-assuring undertone. “Half complete, life goes on” follows “These fractured eggs, I could crack“. This metaphor-driven, almost orchestral ordeal shows natural progression from their other egg-related track Goose Egg from …Paperclip, whose only lyric, simply, was “I spy a goose egg“.
Despite The Garden‘s experimental nature, they are not avant-garde. They sound like Killing Joke covering The Prodigy in a dress provided by Dicks’ Gary Floyd. And that’s a wonderful thing. I doubt haha will be The Garden‘s definitive masterpiece, but it sounds like they’re starting to take their music more seriously. You should too.
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