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GARDEN VARIETY (Buy CDs by this artist)
Garden Variety (Gern Blandsten) 1993
Knocking the Skill Level (Headhunter) 1995

Taking musical cues from Superchunk, Squirrel Bait, Jawbreaker and the Replacements, Long Island, New York's Garden Variety debuted in 1991 with a single called "Hedge." Two years later, the explosive drumming of Joe Gorelick, frenzied guitar of Joe Rizzo and shrieking vocals of bassist Anthony Roman made Garden Variety a post-hardcore, post-punk exploration into "back-pack" rock (commonly referred to as emo). What Garden Variety lacks in production values, it makes up for in energy and spirit. Standouts are "Hat Head," "Binder" and "Letter to the Editor." Knocking the Skill Level is bolstered by Mark Trombino's outstanding production and moves beyond obvious touchstones, settling into a sound somewhere between Unwound and the pop punk of Jawbreaker. Vicious drumming, abrupt time changes, proficient guitar work and a more refined singing style add up to a monster punch. Highlights: "Parker" (named after Parker Lewis Can't Lose), the wry "Soft on the Name," "Harbored" and the emotionally wrenching "Room 183."

[Jeff Sperber]
This piece was first published in Badaboom Gramophone #3 and appears here with permission.