Unclassifiable Californian twins The Garden arrive at Nottingham’s Bodega as part of a tour in support of recently-released second album haha, bringing young Brixton punks Shame as support.

Wyatt and Fletcher Shears, the Orange County identical twins who make up The Garden, have termed their punk / rap hybrid as ‘vada vada’, which, incidentally, means ‘see see’ in Polari, the gay slang popular in the 60s. They, themselves, explain this ‘genre’ as disregarding all previous genres and ideas. It’s no secret that The Garden are notoriously difficult to pigeonhole – no bad thing, I must stress – but a disregard for anything previous? That strikes as being all too similar to punk bands’ declaration of ‘Year Zero’, the same bands which then proceeded to draw on, and even cover, 50s and 60s rock n roll songs.

This is relevant in the case of The Garden too, whose fidgety, largely bass-led punk recalls the likes of Killing Joke or Minutemen, while their penchant for rap and electro is no surprise given their origins. So yes, The Garden are a relative novelty in today’s music scene, but the aforementioned new album haha displays its fair share of influences. Whether the duo would be able to replicate this chaotic formula in a live show is another question altogether, however, and one that we’ll answer soon.

“It’s no secret that The Garden are notoriously difficult to pigeonhole”

But first, it’s the turn of south London five-piece, Shame. They’ve been causing a bit of a storm recently, playing several support slots across London and headlining local haunt The Brixton Windmill. It’s a stunning half-hour set from a group of lads, some of whom look like they’ve never had a legal lager.

There’s an undoubted similarity between Shame and fellow south London punks, Fat White Family, both in terms of songs and on-stage presence, as they switch effortlessly between scuzzy garage-punk and more delicate, slacker rock, while the frontman does his best Lias Saoudi impression, including the sneering, deadpan stare, bare torso and showering himself in beer. Impressive stuff from a band with a lot of time ahead to get even better.

A quick turnaround ensues and The Garden take to the stage infront of a relatively small Sunday night crowd. The opening minutes of the set take on a rather conventional approach, settling into a bass-driven punk rhythm, including the catchy indie-rock of ‘I’ll Stop By Tomorrow Night’ and the eerie Cramps-esque punk of ‘Devour’ .

“Shame offer a stunning half-hour set from a group of lads, some of whom look like they’ve never had a legal lager”

It’s only after 20 minutes that things take a turn for the more bizarre, as drummer Fletcher pole-vaults his kit to join brother Wyatt at the front-of-stage in a brief drum n bass-inspired interlude. It’s during this section that the largely young crowd build up quite a head of steam, instigating a rather violent moshpit and occasionally invading the stage, only to then jump back off it. Despite the passionate reaction to these more electronic songs, it’s the melodic post-punk of title-track ‘haha’ and ‘Egg’ that are most impressive, displaying a musical delicateness that some of The Garden’s other material fails to.

The Garden are a fascinating band to watch. Their songs don’t always hit the spot, but in terms of a live show, it’s a pretty mesmerising effort. An enjoyable Sunday evening.

Alex Neely

Alex is currently listening to ‘Tommy’ by Petal

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