The first full-length LP from Vancouver’s Girlfriends and Boyfriends, Our Garden sounds exactly like it’s supposed to. That is, it sounds like a new wave album. Unfortunately, that’s about it.
Since they began releasing tracks in 2010, Girlfriends and Boyfriends have developed their sound from bright, spunky britpop to a dark, plodding new wave. The guitar lines are still perky punk, but they quickly become bogged down by over-produced, morose vocals. At times the production creates a deep, heavy sound that dips into goth rock. The tempos tend to drag.
Opener “A Flower” was possibly an ill-fated choice, evidencing as it does these worst qualities of the album. The rest of the tracks don’t offer much variety, continually invoking lyrical clichés that undermine whatever progress they might make by adding in more interesting arrhythmic synth and drum elements. For reference, see “Hearts Undone” — “Moon on the rise / Light in our eyes / Hearts come undone / Waiting for the sun.” While the beat of many of the songs gets lost beneath indistinct, sludgy composition, side B starter “Without Me” picks up a bouncier guitar line that makes for more danceability. This style is similarly heard on closing track “Cost of Living,” suggesting where Girlfriends and Boyfriends might want to devote more of their energy.
New wave is a genre that has its roots in deviation and exploration, but rather than adding to this legacy with their own unique additions, Girlfriends and Boyfriends sound like they were given a few greatest hits albums and decided to form a tribute band. While definitely ‘doing’ new wave, they aren’t really contributing anything to the genre. There was better music being made when it was actually a new wave of music, and Vancouver new wavers would be better off sticking to the classics until Girlfriends and Boyfriends get more exciting, or something better comes along.