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Irving - Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers Review

by Patrick Muldowney

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It is very frustrating to listen to Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers by Irving, because it is such a fine album that is currently indie pop, but could easily be buzzworthy mainstream alternative. If you can listen to the current thoughtlessness of Weezer, The Killers excluding the mascara, or anything created by Violent Femmes and They Might Be Giants this century, then tell me that Irving is not more deserving of accolades and large audiences than any of them in 2006, I would have difficulty respecting your opinion. Irving has pop intelligence that is experimental enough to separate from the normal, while keeping all the hooks of its counterparts.

It would be possible to place Irving in the same fold as all the retro-80s bands flooding the market, and the space age keys will easily assist the argument, but such a placement would ignore the originality with which this album was created. Their sound seems in no way forced to match the current trends, but comfortable and natural. This is part of the attraction for Death in the Garden.... "Jen, nothing matters to me" is a song that could perfectly introduce Irving. A western movie twang to an eastern sounding guitar riff creates a universal pop mood, which is further enhanced by keys reminiscent of The Cure's best singles. The music is only surpassed by the genius of the lyrics, which instead of pining and whining for Jen, as we've been led to expect from music, frankly dumps Jen. It is great to know there is room in pop for words like, "I have a basic unwillingness, to commit, to anything substantial, and I am emotionally unavailable."

The strangest moment on the disc is during "hard to breathe", the second to last track. The music is eerily similar to a song I tend to hear every time a karaoke bar crosses my path. The song is Clarence Carter's "Strokin'", and it is up there in the most awful songs of all time, singing about stroking east and west with "the woman I love the best." I wish I had been a fly on the wall when that song was written, and know if any of the band members expressed the same fear I would have when that idea was introduced. Surprisingly though, they pull off this resemblance, and like the rest of the album, create a good song. Great bands can take any sound and make it their own successfully, and "hard to breathe" is the perfect example of the greatness of Irving.

All of the 13 songs on Death in the Garden display a degree of quality, although I am least impressed with "Situation", which clearly shows the Beatles' influence. Other than the bands mentioned above, there are moments where you will hear Life's Rich Pageant R.E.M., The Zombies, and Pavement in the album. Irving reminds me what is great about pop rock; it's connected by brilliant simplicity, which allows the listener to recognize connections without feeling any thievery has occurred. This band deserves a great deal of recognition for Death in the Garden..., and should be complimented with a number of appearances on Top 10 lists by the end of the year.


CD Info and Links

Irving - Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers

Label:Eenie Meenie Records
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