Right off the bat, Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers, is a sweet album title. It is very darkly picturesque and reminds me of the Cure’s Bloodflowers, from whom Irving have derived some inspiration.
The San Francisco five-piece entered the music scene in 2002 with their debut album, Good Morning Beautiful. The interesting thing about the band is that they are all singers and songwriters. This gives Irving a fantastically varied sound from song to song. They manage to keep a common thread running through the album to keep each song from sounding wildly different, creating the effect of listening to several different bands who are very similar.
Irving uses a heavy synthesizer sound that best reaches the comparison to the Cure in “Jen, Nothing Matters To Me.” As with any band who boasts five members that can sing, harmonies are prominent and well done. Combined with the synthesizer and vocals are rocking guitar riffs that vary from classic rock to the Strokes, as in “If You Jump, I Will Say No.” I think they like commas in titles. As a matter of fact, all the song titles have the same illustrative qualities as the album title, including “The Gentle Preservation of Children’s Minds.”
Lest you think I am unfairly obsessed with just the titles, the lyrics of the songs do an equally good job of creating images. For instance, “She folds her hand and she starts to smile / Rests her cold white cheek on the checkered tile / And you wish they all could be lovely just like her,” is a good example, but just one of many. Each song tells a story, and does it in a way that makes you think the members of Irving were also novelists.
It is good to hear a band that can produce an album where each song is unique and not immediately identifiable by its sound. Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers, is a perfect example of collaboration and contemplative songwriting.