ALBUM REVIEW: The Garden, Horseshit On Route 66
After two years and a worldwide pandemic, The Garden has returned to spread more filth. Their latest record HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66 is not only their dirtiest effort yet, but it’s also their most streamlined. Twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears have found the sound they’ve been chasing for 12 years. Over their lengthy career as professional musicians, they’ve dabbled in genres like drum’n’bass, crust punk, industrial rock and indie pop, collaborating with visionaries like Andy Morin and Dorian Electra. Throughout HOR66, elements of these disparate styles can be heard all at once. The power chords and despondent vocal work of The Strokes is present on “Chainsaw The Door” seamlessly intertwined with the dubby drum’n’bass. “Orange County Punk Rock Legend” collides the playful rock of Ween with the screaming and clipped electronic freakouts of Machine Girl. While some songs here are undoubtedly stronger than others, what keeps even a moment of this record from being “bad” is the how focused the duo are on a singular vision. For example, the intro “Haunted House on Zillow” has a loose structure that ends abruptly, but I’ll give them a pass for using time tested punk structure to foreshadow the sound of the album to come.
The territory between pulp, horror, punk and rave rhythms they are mining is getting more bountiful and specific. Inherently though, this is an album that has a clear pool of influence. Aside from those who I’ve already named, I can hear spots of Boris, Discharge, Ariel Pink and Atari Teenage Riot throughout. This is not a dig at the duo, most modern musicians are influence-filters in this way, and the value of their respective art to me, in a subjective sense, depends entirely on how original the end product comes out. Yves Tumor and Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) are probably the best in the industry at this. Tumor’s “Gospel For A New Century” has the familiar frontman mannerisms of Lenny Kravtiz but it’s warped through this ‘70s late-night radio funk that makes these cliches feel so alien. Hynes will simultaneously sample a sound from the past, like Memphis rap, and get a feature from a prominent artist in that same scene, all while overlaying the track with a dream pop aesthetic. While I can’t give The Garden too many points for originality, what’s on display here is seamless and unique in its own way. It’s all familiar yet still instantly recognizable as music only they could make.
No-frills is an adjective that cuts both ways on HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66. While the simplicity of the lyrics can sometimes be to their detriment, lines like “When I see that closed door I’m gonna chainsaw through” border on being inspirational. At the same time, the sound is very balls-to-the-wall but its impact is lessened by a lack of deviation from the formula. In my opinion, this is a course correction that will lead the duo to a large-scale production with a solidified style in hand. For that reason and just because of how deeply fun it is, I’d dare to say that this is their very best album. The single power is strong with “Freight Yard” and “Chainsaw The Door”, the title track is killer and the performances are all super kinetic. I’m excited to see what the tour for this looks like and will keep a close key out for future releases.