Chad VanGaalen - World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener

The Calgary-based singer songwriter Chad VanGaalen is back with a new album. Entitled The World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, VanGaalen has cobbled together another collection of typically eccentric sounding tunes that range from fuzzed out garage rockers to sensitive folk tunes. As with all his previous releases, VanGaalen workshopped and recorded everything at his brilliantly named Yoko Eno studio and this included all performance and production duties….not to mention the fact, as the album title alludes to, that he started his own vegetable garden.

As mentioned, Chad VanGaalen records are a hodgepodge of rock and folk tunes, but the common trait has always been his ability to create an affecting melody through all of the chaos (see previous examples: “Sara”, “Rabid Bits of Time”, “Evil”). This time out VanGaalen offers up “Nothing is Strange” and “Where is it all Going” as the sentimental ditties that he can seemingly write in his sleep. The former has his voice strained through a filter that sounds as though he’s singing underwater, the latter could easily pass for a Neil Young cover.

The album’s opener, “Spider Milk”, starts out simply enough with VanGaalen sending out some sort of Beatles-esque vibe with a melody and guitar line straight off of Yellow Submarine, but the whole thing takes a left turn halfway through and the rest of the song is a psych-rock freakout. “Nightmare Scenario” rocks out too, but it’s all contained in more straightforward packaging.

VanGaalen taps a krautrock vein with “Inner Fire” and “Starlight.” Both tracks favour a repetitive beat and dark undertone…the vocal on “Inner Fire” sounds like VanGaalen is reading a mantra in Hell’s waiting room. The flip side of that darker tone are the sounds heard on the tracks “Samurai Sword” and “Golden Pear”…the songwriting is lighthearted and features stories of a magical pear and the hunt for a lost samurai sword.

Though Neil Young is still very much alive and well, Chad VanGaalen may very well be the modern day interpretation of him. With his electric/acoustic forays, his high pitched register, and his singular artistic vision, VanGaalen reminds of the great man in so many ways. There seem to be so few artists who have the ability to carve out such a unique place in the modern rock landscape, but Chad VanGaalen is undoubtedly one of them!

-Johnny Hooper