By way of Brighton come Garden Centre, who have followed up their self-titled 2016 album with the half-cunning, half-bizarre ‘Monster Energy’. The sound of the band, which occasionally features members of Joanna Gruesome and King of Cats, among others, is a mix of a needle-drained version of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a bedroom-bound Violent Femmes, and indie rock’s answer to a supermarket-disrupting pigeon.
Songwriter Max Levy has declared Garden Centre as primarily his own project, and both laid down the foundations and completed ‘Monster Energy’ mostly himself. As a writer, he isn’t necessarily doing anything new, but his poetry is definitely far out. ‘Urinal’ sees the lyricist somehow form a delicate, dreamy sound out of the thought of standing at a urinal – the song’s namesake, in case you hadn’t noticed. While psychedelic, his song structures aren’t to be singled out with superlatives, except for the occasional tweak of genius on songs like ‘We Don’t Need (To Be a Big Part of the Scene)’ with a fun, rummaging chord progression that changes key when the chorus comes in.
The most notable aspect of the album might be the vocals. Instantly noticed on the opening title track, the whimsical, hyperactive yelps are prevalent, and are likely to annoy those who aren’t familiar with the style of singing. Still, not being a conventionally great singer can make your words feel more human, and that is certainly achieved on this record, even if the wackiness can get over the top here-and-there, notably on ‘Comfort Of My Room’, which is still a great song.
The production style is very lo-fi, with the vocal tracks often pushing past the music in a distorted manner. The way that the vocals are mixed are only going to add to the irritation from casual listeners, but these kinds of stylistic quirks should be welcomed; ‘Monster Energy’ is the furthest thing from boring as possible. The instruments sometimes vary. There’s an emphasis on guitars and drums, but you’ll sometimes get the odd organ sound sweeping in, and it gives the dusty bedroom album that bit of extra colour, which is always nice. ‘We Don’t Need’ is perhaps the best example of this, with rainbow-esque keyboards brightening up the track.
‘Monster Energy’ isn’t for everyone, but one of the coolest traits of the album is that Max Levy clearly doesn’t want it to be for everyone. It’s a stylistic enterprise, achieving a weird goal – it’s so beautifully annoying that it becomes annoyingly beautifully.
‘Monster Energy’ is out now via Faux Discx