The Garden // haha
Recommended Track(s): I’ll Stop By Tomorrow Night, Gift, Together
A good number of folks might remember The Garden as the twins who’ve strutted their shit for Yves Saint Laurent the last few years and please don’t think that in the writing of this review this fact isn’t 100% problematic for me. I fucking bold-italic-underline all-caps HATE the fashion industry. If/when this decadent west of ours is reduced to righteous cinders, I hope the first champagne bottle Molotov crashes against the catwalk. Style is cool, but fashion as a concept is pure bourgeois garbage. I don’t give a fuck how hard you worked at FIDM, I will always have an inherent disgust for something as decidedly like un-punk as fashion.
With that said: these little elflings could shoot up a school and I’d be like: “They did what? Yo, that’s some twisted shit. Thoughts and prayers to the vics, but what up with that new Garden album, doe?” I love this band, these dudes, their off-putting weird side-projects, and their chaos-sigil approach to music. haha is the soundtrack to that room in The Shining where the butler face-fucks the bear suit man. If you actually entered the room, you’d see the Shears twins in the corner eating a human hand donut filled with Tang-colored jelly and sus-as-fuck looking Chow Mein (Just straight noodle. No vegetables or nothin’.)
I don’t even think their fans get it: one Youtube commenter wrote “Aesthetic” in ASCII-style lettering and it’s like: no, Actually. No aesthetic. Get the runway-walking weirdo pretty boys from Orange County shit out of your head and close your lying eyes: haha is context-less, absent of genre, devoid of guile, post-nothing, pre-tension without pretentiousness. Sublime irreverence personified. Every track starts you out on the cusp of “Fuck this, skip to the next one” but then you hear: “Take your sunglasses off and put them back on again / I’ve created a forcefield and I hope no one breaks it” and the combination of thoughts that made you not want to bother are broken Killer Instinct-style and you just keep listening. Because now? It’s catchy somehow.
That’s what every track of haha is like. Just when you thought you’ve heard your last vaguely nu-metal chord progression, Fruityloops-through-Winamp programed drum sequence or annoyingly snotty pop-punk vocal hook, something DADAIST happens or there’s an angsty lyric growled over tickled ivory (“Egg”) and you’re pulled back in. Yeah, there’s some cheddar-y pop stuff going on, but the Garden’s pop leanings are (weirdly) more “Surreal Anime Theme” than anything discernably “Loli”, “Burger” or first-world commercial. Definitely wouldn’t play this on a runway (even though that’s exactly what’s happened).
Look. If you think this music is full of shit, it’s probably because on some level that you’re not aware of: you’re full of shit. Genre-loyalty is product loyalty and product loyalty is more of a capitalistically contrived and a spikey over-sized fuck-tool of #musicmarketing than you probably think this band is. This music is mind without a body, spirit without form; an ode to the primordial chaos that ideas preceding songwriting come from. Like those first moments of a DMT trip when you’re just straight up assaulted by “the data”, before the “other-dimension” doorway opens up. The Garden have done away with “channeling” and opted for projectile vomiting the Ether itself right into your lap. And you can either ‘actuallyImokaywiththis.jpg’ or GTFO.
The human mind naturally maps out songs, seeking sub-conscious familiarity through repetition, trying to understand the uncharted through relatable emotions and language and the always-unspoken notion of “what you’re supposed to be listening to.” But the moment you break out your little cartography kit, masterful, delicious drums act as a solar flares rendering the compass useless. Sharp chorus-marinated bass throws you off course. “I’ll just camp out and try the expedition tomorrow”, you think. Cool. But tomorrow is a different plane; a 56 hour day and the sky is going to be magenta and half the stars are going to get drunk and not show up. Ok, Clark. Now try to “draw a map” while you’re listening to a Shears twin rapping like Micheal Nhat in the first verse of “I Guess We’ll Never Know.”
There are bands that pull this off. Pure Shit, for example, use their art and message like a medieval club forged from television static. They start with your love of agro-punk-noise and punch you in the nose while you’re half-expecting it. But the Garden? They start with confusion and a hatred for what you might think this band is about (e.g. “Everything Has A Face”). It ends with you questioning yourself. (“I feel like I’m not supposed to like this – so why do I love it so fucking much?”) That’s not just subversive. It’s basically insidious. Especially considering that haha doesn’t seem to be all that contrived. How could it be? This is just “what happened.”
There’s something menacing and horrible about “We Be Grinding.” It’s an evil salvia trip in the middle of the dance floor at HAM on Everything. There’s something startling, vexing and true about the lyrics in almost-techno “Together We Are Great”. There’s no ethos, no style here. There’s just “VADA VADA” and at the end of the album you’re still not convinced that’s even a real thing. The only kind of sonic gumbo this can be compared to is the plethora of ingredients making rap one of the most eclectic forms of musical expression. Except the Garden is still a “punk” band; a hyphy, esoteric punk band playing in a storefront in Blade Runner.
How does that work? How do you describe this to your friends over the age of 27? “It’s. Fuck. Um. Minimal but maximal? Danny Elfman-ish? Or um, If the twins from Superjail started a band? Like Saccharine Trust in spirit but definitely pop still, but um, with like Kommunity FK vocals meets Atari Teenage Riot? It reminds me of the way Mindless Self Indulgence made me feel in high school, but I won’t be embarrassed by this album in 17 years? Crazy in the way Brainiac was crazy, except they don’t sound like Brainiac? Fuck man, I don’t know.”
And you don’t know. How could you? It’s a time capsule without the capsule and without the concept of time. And the content itself is marinated in magic twin-language, floating around mid-air right next to you but on a different M-brane, existing as one singular “Now”. What would normally require a psychedelic to perceive has shown up to the party via wormhole, sharply dressed, blonde and innocuous. What the fuck are you gonna do?
How do I even end this review? What I should really say is that haha really meant something to me this year at a time that I’ve lost hope for what could be…and that should be enough. But the Molotov cocktail has already left my hand and I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, so whatever oh well. Do as the Garden did: do whatever you want. Truly, deeply, it’s your loss if you don’t want to fucks with haha. But if you’re not going to treat it like a gift, I don’t want you listening to it anyway. More strange perfection for me.