MARVIN’S GARDEN – Why Should I Change?
(2006 PBM Records)
A little bit jazz, a little bit country jig, a little bit of funk and a whole lot of rock–n-roll, Marvin’s Garden offer up an impressive display of songs that stretch across musical boundaries while keeping their decidedly Midwestern disposition front and center. While the music is mostly sunshine-y, it’s definitely not sugar-coated, as there are plenty of “goddamns” and f-bombs colorizing these tales along with references to brats, beer, shitty gin, LSD, bong hits and jays.
Most of the time they deftly blend acoustic with electric guitar, but it’s Kenny Leiser’s violin that really sets them apart. Their music recalls the Waterboys in that regard, with a bit of Irish flavor, especially on “Sandy O’Shea,” a folk song that morphs into a full-blown jig, and “Dock Ellis,” a hilarious song about the flamboyant Pirates pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 1970 after ingesting LSD because he thought it was his day off.
Things get really funky by the third track, “Julie Be,” which is augmented by a blazing-hot guitar lick. “Monsters” is similar, with an inventive middle section that features a keen bass solo from Tim Peeters. “Free Lee” is harder hitting and funky in a “Funk #49” sense.
“Windowsill” gets jazzy and downright gypsy and here Justin Sprague demonstrates the reach his voice possesses. “Great Big Wonderful (Mess)” features a simulated sitar guitar solo. “Chasing” is a nice slice of seventies pop-rock, accentuating the breezy acoustic side of the band while also illustrating that they can pull out the super-thick distortion when they see fit. “Shitty Gin,” which could have been written by Tom Waits, is a song about the bottle that immediately sounds like a standard. The band plays its country-bumpkin card near the end of the album with “Redneck Stoners,” a romping, humorous take on white-trash rockers: “He’s listenin’ to Nugent / She’s workin’ on the truck / Dang, heck, redneck / Stoners in love.” “Heavy” may be the standout track, the perfect combination of all the elements that make Marvin’s Garden so captivating.
This is an excellent collection and a strong debut from one of Wisconsin’s more promising bands. The songs really come to life in performance and if you’re inclined to check out what you’ve been missing in Madison’s exceptionally talented music scene, Marvin’s Garden is a great place to start.