Berwanger — Watching A Garden Die (28 June, 2019)
Location: Lawrence ~ Kansas City, Kansas
Genre: Classic Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Album release: June 28, 2019
Record Label: Wiretap Records
01 Long Way Down 2:27
02 Even the Darkness Doesn’t Know 3:32
03 Bad Vibrations 3:35
04 Paper Blues 3:32
05 The Business of Living 4:10
06 Friday Night 2:44
07 New Guitar 3:45
08 When I Was Young 4:07
09 Turn Off Your Mind 2:30
10 I Keep Telling Myself 5:34
11 Remain Untamed 4:10
Members: Josh Berwanger, Ricky Salthouse, Brian Klein
℘ Recorded at Element Studios, 2018.
℘ Produced by Josh Berwanger.
℘ Mixed, engineered and mastered by Joel Nanos.
℘ “Bad Vibrations” and “Even the Darkness Doesn’t Know” mixed by Doug Boehm.
℘ All songs written by Josh Berwanger. “Paper Blues” written by Ricky Salthouse, Josh Berwanger.
℘ Start A Trend Kill A Friend Publishing, SESAC.
℘ Art by Mike Mitchell.
℘ Photo by Zach Bauman.
♣ 1st pressing — 250x Total
♣ 100 — 3~Color Side A/Side B
♣ 150 — Transparent Yellow
⦿ Berwanger is the solo effort of Josh Berwanger from emo~indie rockers, The Anniversary. However, this musical direction is quite a long way off from the band’s usual sound so don’t assume if you’re a fan of The Anniversary that you’ll like this.
⦿ The opening track starts almost mid~verse which made me skip back to check it was right and then when I realised this was purposeful it just made me screw my nose up. Instantly, the music makes me think of The Dandy Warhols or The Flaming Lips as it has that similar hazy, fuzzy indie feel. It trots along at that pace for the title track, not really doing anything of note.
⦿ It then moves into a finger picked acoustic guitar love song with the same, almost weary vocals. I think it’s the vocals that I’ve got a problem with. They’re too layered and sound too much like that choir setting you could get on keyboards in the 90s. Musically, it’s actually quite nice, if not generic Dylan, but lyrically, it’s not even close.
⦿ The record drifts through generally inoffensive indie pop, with an underlined pop sensibility until Track 5. My head literally turned and my ears pricked up upon hearing the steel guitar and harmonica intro for ‘The Business of Living’. I’m a sucker from anything sounding like it might have ever even driven through Nashville but this alt~country ode is still flat though and doesn’t have the killer chorus or ‘finding the answer to heartbreak in the bottom of a bottle’ lyrics you’re hoping for.
⦿ There are a couple more in this style, that again don’t deliver. ‘I Keep Telling Myself’ is more steel guitar and lyrics that seem to be nodding to Neil Young: ‘Is your heart of gold/you say you don’t know’ and although I’m sure they’re heartfelt and coming from a good place, it just gets bit cheesy: ‘Are we so blind to everything but the colour of skin/are we so dumb we don’t know the same blood’s within’. By the next track we’re talking about wild horses (another Young nod?) that can’t be tamed. I feel like I could be reading my high school poetry and I cringe.
⦿ This album feels a little bit like it doesn’t know what it’s trying be — psych~pop clap along tunes; sorrowful vocals backed by steel guitars; or fuzzy washed out indie rock. The only thread and theme that seems able to weave consistently through all 11 tracks is being below average at everything it attempts to achieve. ⦿ http://apathyandexhaustion.com/
⦿ Josh says, “On this new record, I often use the word “you”, but I’m actually referring to “me”. In other words, I’m talking to myself. This song is about my social anxieties because I usually feel awkward in public. Which makes me think I sometimes give off bad vibrations when most likely I’m just spaced out, off on another planet. Or maybe a better example is how Garth feels when Wayne ditches him on set in Wayne’s World.”
⦿ Josh Berwanger was one of the main singers and songwriters in The Anniversary. The band formed in 1999 and released two albums on Vagrant Records. They toured with a variety of bands including Modest Mouse, Mars Volta, Guided By Voices, and Cheap Trick. Due to a number of unfortunate circumstances, The Anniversary broke up prematurely in 2003.
⦿ In 2017, The Anniversary embarked on a successful reunion tour. Berwanger explained, “It never felt right, the way we broke up. One day we were on tour, the next day none of us were talking to each other. So it felt good to put some closure to something we worked so hard at.” After the reunion tour, Berwanger started another band that some called a “super~group”, forming Radar State with Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic of the Get Up Kids. The band released the album Strays and toured the U.S. So when did Berwanger find time to record his fourth full~length studio album, Watching A Garden Die? “I’m constantly writing. I try to write a song or part of a song every day. It’s not always good, but it’s not about it being good or bad. It’s about pushing yourself to create each day.” WAGD has a different tone than his previous albums. While songs like “Bad Vibrations” and “Friday Night” make you want to hit the dance floor, the rest of the album has a more heartfelt and moodier tone. “It’s definitely one of the most, if not the most, personal albums I have written. There were a few times I didn’t even want to release it. But if some of the subject matter can reach another person and help them deal with something they’re going through, that’s what music and art is for.”