Garlic - Jam Sabbatical
Garlic are the hardy perennials of the London live scene, and have gigged non-stop since their inception and that's reflected in this collection of songs. Jam Sabbatical sounds like a band who are have begun to find their feet somewhat and the first thing that strikes you about this album is the confidence and maturity that it exudes.
The nice thing about Garlic is their refusal to fit neatly into any neat pigeonhole. There are influences here, sure, but just when you think you have a handle on them, Garlic have a habit of throwing something leftfield at you. Opener, and single, A Weird Wood Soul, has a warm, 1970's acoustic vibe to it, with building strings and Mike Wyzgowski's lilting, sardonic voice bolted on top. This is immediately followed by Kathleen And Marie which is all fuzzy guitars and distortion. Elsewhere, 100 Miles has a country vibe, slide guitar and almost nursery rhyme like vocals and hand claps. It's an album filled with little moments of unexpected treats.
If you've seen them live, (and if you haven't, please do) then a few songs on here will be familiar. Waverly, a loose, fast rock/pop song with a chorus to die for, has been captured with no loss of intensity. Kathleen And Marie, too is familiar and has lost nothing in translation; it's odd lyrical arrangement still jars and brings a smile "I was a drummer in a previous life/I had no money/And I could not get a wife." One of the things they do extremely well is contrasting horror with homour, as in Face Down "Everything I touch just seems to turn to mould/And all of the things I used to like just seem so old" could have been one of the most depressing songs of all time had it not been written with a bouncy, upbeat sort of tune. "I should have stayed in bed cos everything is fucked" is one of the best lines to be uttered on any album.
Indeed, lyrics are a strong point in the world of Garlic, and the delivery is dry, witty and cutting. The last song, The Stenhousemuir Of Love is a case in point; "Hey girl, don't be mortified if you don't see a model in the mirror in your room/That's your true reflection, hit the treadmill regularly, and you might have a chance" Garlic have a nice line in humour seeped in despair. "Brace yourself and then condemn your honesty you can't afford the hills of beverly" from Waverly, illustrates this and the wordplay that is present throughout. It's little touches like this that make Garlic stand out.
Jam Sabbatical comes highly recommended. As a collection of songs, it's faultless and there's even been effort in the track listing, so that listening to the album as a whole ensures the experience is a rounded and complete experience. On this album, Garlic are confident, dark, warm and witty and sounding like a band on top form. It's impossible to classify, call it alt.country if you like, indie rock if you must or pop-grunge as The Guardian once called them (in what must have been the long, dark tea-time of the sub-editor's soul), but, whatever you call them, give them a listen at the same time.