Garden Centre are, in certain circles at least, something of a super group. Although the exact names of the members seems to remain top-secret, they include members of King Of Cats, Joanna Gruesome and Towel. Plus anyone who’s ever heard King Of Cats won’t struggle to hear that it’s former King Of Cat, Max Levy who’s taking on lead vocal duties.
Based on the evidence of their self-titled debut album, Garden Centre are an eclectic bunch. The record takes in elements of punk, indie-pop and minimal folk, all bound together into something cohesive by the omnipresent vocals of Max Levy, which a brief trawl of the internet would suggest sounds like Joanna Newsom, “Jeff Mangum on Acid”, and nothing else in the entire world, we’re prone to agree with the latter, mixed with a touch of Daniel Johnston.
Garden Centre are from Brighton, our research suggests there are approximately 22 other garden centre’s in the Brighton area. Brighton, a seaside resort with a population of around 280,000 people, has been voted both the happiest and the hippest city in the United Kingdom. Brighton came to fame during the Georgian-era, thanks primarily to the backing of the seaside-loving Prince Regent, who would go on to become King George IV, and remains a popular tourist destination due, at least in part, to its proximity to London. Brighton has a large and varied music and arts scene, and has given the world acts such as Beardyman, Brakes and Phats & Small.
We’d guess that Garden Centre formed around the time that King Of Cats disbanded/stopped, which was December last year. Garden Centre played their first shows in February this year, and will release their debut album this Friday via Faux Discx.
What really makes Garden Centre’s debut album work is the balancing of the heartfelt and the daft, the beautiful and the noisy, the sublime and the ridiculous. Take the excellent, UK’s Most Boring; it begins life with a minimal vocal and meandering keys, reminiscent of the Casio-folk of Oh Peas. Max wistfully delivering touching lyrics about spending, “years just pretending to be remotely interesting.” The track then morphs via a thumping electrobeat and unhinged-bassy synth, and the lyrics shift from the inward glancing, to the outright bizarre, Max yelping, “drinking water, drinking ten glasses of water daily, I begin to notice how different each glass is tasting. I’m hydrated, so hydrated.” He then takes us on a journey through various counties water hardnesses and recalls a mission to taste the water from fountains in every county across the UK.
In the accompanying press release, Garden Centre describe some of this album as being, “based on the experiences and memories of a group of people who used to hang out in an abandoned plant nursery.” A fact that they don’t really address until the album’s closing and title track; indeed the first mention of garden centre is the albums closing line, “we climb the hill above the smoking town and find the remains of a garden centre.” It’s a very appropriate gesture for a band who seem determined to somewhat mess with the listeners ears. They’re wonderfully difficult to pin down, and all the more interesting for it.
Elsewhere it’s a delightfully entertaining romp; Cut By Something In The Rubbish is a paranoia drenched tale of the dangers of rooting through junk yards, set to squelchy synths and a frantic beat, Junk Beach is a surfy blast in the mould of Diet Cig, whilst Riding twitches with the energetic thump of Los Campesinos! Recent single Scrap Yard is an arresting and delightfully messy track, made all the better by a ludicrously bombastic guitar line in the chorus. This is an album that never really stops on one sound, or one idea for more than a couple of minutes, and it rushes by in less than half an hour of pure entertainment.
There’s two major reasons you might not like the new record by Garden Centre; one is the divisive nature of Max’s idiosyncratic vocal (which we’ve learned to love) and the other is that at times it’s, in a charming way, a little bit daft. There’s a song about how inspiring a really good pen can be, and another about keeping a collection of tap water in jams jars. That will probably either turn you off entirely or make you think it’s the best thing ever; they’re that kind of band.
Garden Centre is out June 24th via Faux Discx. Garden Centre have a few upcoming dates, details provided below because we can’t find a link.
23rd: Brighton (free show) – Hope and Ruin
24th: Cardiff – Castle Emporium
25th: Bristol – Roll for the Soul
26th: Oxford – The Library
27th: London- DIY Space for London