Veni, Vidi, Vici, Vada Vada
Since the mid-2010s, no band has had me more excited for the “sound of music to come” than The Garden. Their openness to experiment, Vada Vada as the twins have coined, has led to some of the most unique takes on punk. I found haha unfocused and untamed, but still enjoyable on multiple fronts. Please read my review of their last album, Mirror Might Steal Your Charm for more full thoughts, but simply put I wouldn’t have thought they could top what they did on it. Experimentation-laced rock with traces of late 90s and early 2000s culture that had me hooked for the remainder of the 2010s. With their most consistent and hard-hitting album to date, The Garden have quite simply blown me away. Gone is the stripped back production and Casio keyboard SFX packs (well mostly). In it’s stead, Kiss My Super Bowl Ring delivers well polished experimental punk that finds The Garden at their most aggressive and witty yet.
The lead single for the album, “Clench to Stay Awake”, is also the lead track on the album and is quite fitting. Many points I felt the clench to keep from passing out from the entropy The Garden bring with their Vada Vada style. A simple wonky 808 beat and bass line build up and close down a fast power-chords and drumming explosion punk passage. This leads into “A Struggle”, a track where the twins really show off some new directions. Primarily with the vocals, if you had told me if screaming Hardcore vocals would appear on this album I wouldn’t believe you. Even though the track opens with this near-Powerviolence style track, it descends into an alien synth, bass, and drum Pop Punk. I love these Powerviolence aspects for sure, with their weird off-kilter instrumental breathing breaks, but the clean passages are just so light and airy and are quintessentially The Garden. “Sneaky Devil” finds the twins going Digital Hardcore. I was close to thinking this was a Machine Girl with it’s warbly digital synths, reverbed instrumentation, and hard breakbeats supplying the forward momentum for this Hardcore direction. I love the breakbeat interplay with the saucy guitar riff and bass on the next track “Kiss My Super Bowl Ring”, a real auditory umami. “A Fool’s Expedition” is one of my favorites on the album. It almost has a Grunge type beat to it, with a washed out dissonant pop progression. The Garden aren’t strangers to rapping, hell their solo projects have both been prominent on that front. Their delivery on this is simply head-bopping. The outro with the flute and high-flying synths over the fast beat is a really exciting and engaging way to close this track.
The halfway point starts with “AMPM Truck”, a simple enough Punk track with a slick guitar riff and hard bass about almost dying after falling asleep at the wheel. Following this is “Hit Eject”, another favorite of mine. A booming drum and bass track that features rapping amd hard synth bass that rivals The Prodigy. The trap chorus is insanely infections on this, really fits into the sound of today. “The King Of Cutting Corners” is one of the wildest tracks on the album, with tremelo picked surf guitar riff and bit-crunched bass. I love the echoed and distorted vocals floating in and out during the chorus. The tempo and flow on this track is insane, I was locked in and wide-eyed instantly. “Lurkin” continues this weirdness, but not only due to the wavy nighttime reverb and chorus ridden guitar that backs this Rap track. So while this isn’t the first collaboration they have done, Mac DeMarco on “Thy Mission” has that honour, this is their first rap feature. Le1f has the honors and fits their wonky and wavy beat extremely well. Following on “Lowrider Slug”, we have a feature by Hypnagogic Pop legend, Ariel Pink. What starts as a “cool as a cucumber” description of a lowrider slug is interrupted by some amazing Post-Hardcore breakdowns. I love the weird and funny interplay between the harsh yelled vocals and Ariel Pink, like a patient yelling at their therapist. Ariel Pink does sing on this on one of the verses but quite honestly is a forgettable feature overall, really my only paint point on the album. Even that is remedied by this track having one hell of a swinging outro. Finally with “Please, Fuck Off!“…well you get what you think you would get. Hard, dirty, and angry. The drum and synth work on this track are second-to-none amazing. A lot of classic textures for sure, but goddamn it is dirty. The bridge transition is really nice, with an awesome bass line and guitar melody. The outro is as good as it gets on most albums, showing their humorous and cynical reflection on their music life:
You made it to the end of the song
Just a few more seconds now
It won’t be long
Counting down the seconds
Counting down the hours
Until you zip that fucking lip
Until you hit the showers
My youth is asleep
Or maybe I’m the one snoozing
Back in the day I’d be asking for that real bruising
Making music for a bunch of people that don’t care
I feel empty with that pointless tired fanfare
Please, fuck off
The breakdown before the ending here is really fun and tongue-in-cheek but I love it as a closer. It’s so final and aggressive, but pairs off really nicely with their more free-flowing Vada Vada approach to songwriting and instrumentation. At the end of the day, it’s a closer you can really put a stamp on and say “Please, fuck off”.
The Garden nailed it with this album, easily their most consistent release yet. Overall there is a lot to praise here. The more aggressive style overall in tandem with their usual weirdness really brings out some unique and engaging songwriting choices. I was always on my toes with this album, going from moshing in the pit to taking shrooms at night. Their overall direction here is excellent and the change of pace and longer studio time really let them shine here. The features overall were good additions, albeit somewhat forgettable. But I’m not going to hold much against this album at all, especially considering I already deem Mirror Might Steal Your Charm to be in my top five albums of 2018. Spoiler alert, I like this more than that one. Even though their previous albums were more melodic and off-the-wall kooky, I find this more aggressive side to really complete their character. I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for the cutting edge of post-modern Punk music. I predict the 2020s are only going to be filled with more sounds like just this, The Garden being the torch-bearer of Vada Vada.