It may seem perverse to attach the masterpiece tag to any album that contains the line ‘shoot up if you’ve got a fuckin’ face’ but it would be wrong to do anything but lavish The Garden’s haha with all the praise it deserves. The album is catalogue of catcalls, threats, and jolting streaks of warmth, seventeen tracks that paint a surrealistic self-portrait of immensely talented brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears.
This is outsider music made from the inside – the Shears’ moonlight as models occasionally – and so despite the strikingly bizarre lyrics, the melodies themselves are polished and perfect. Crystal Clear and Cloak in particular feel like they could be used in an advertisement for designer bondage gear: they’re as twisted as they are tailored, and the immensely satisfying The Gift features the most seductive vocal performance by a male artist this side of Nick Cave’s sultry exultations.
At times, the album calls to mind the bands’ The Life And Times Of A Paperclip – I’ll Stop By Tomorrow Night and the untouchable Cells Stay Clean both feature the same baggy bass that dominated that brilliant EP – but other tracks see the Garden striving out into newer, less defined territory. I Guess We’ll Never Know is as stripped down as a playground chant, and Egg adds a fresh veneer of glam-pop power-chording to the proceedings.
Perhaps most impressively, nothing about haha feels artificial or steeped in novelty. The Shears’ don’t make music like this because they want to appear cool, or provocative, they make music like this because they have no other choice. There is a particularly personal brand of urgency to the record. Haha never feels like anything less than two young men making music in order to keep themselves alive.