Sunday, May 27, 2012

5th pile of Garbage - and oh how sweet it is

"Tell your mother tell your brother tell your friends tell your teacher / I won't be your dirty little secret".  If that's not a great way to start off an album with a bang,  I'm not sure what is.

Much has transpired in the 7 years since Garbage's last album.  Lead singer Shirley Manson acted in The Sarah Connor chronicles until it was cancelled, Butch Vig went right on producing albums - the band in general just moved along with things.  Manson has made much of the fact that self-releasing this disc freed them from the "creative straitjacket" which most refer to [correctly] as part of what pushed them apart after the last album in the first place.

Opener "Automatic Systematic Habit" is a scathing put-down of the suave womanizer - a perfect subject for Shirley's angry-girl stomp style of singing.  It's all fuzz-box guitars, distortion cranked to the ceiling, insistant thudding drumbeats, a forceful declaration of "We're back, and we're not going away"

This stunning opening leads into a 3-track blast of raw fury, especially lead single "Blood for Poppies" - and then slows it all down with "Control".  Manson has already lended her voice to arguably one of the best Bond title tracks with "The World Is Not Enough" - here she reprises that smouldering feeling with "Control" - all fear, worry, and vulnerability - quite the counterpoint to the fury of the first 3 songs.  And she doesn't stop there either - the album title track follows - and if it seemed before like they could never record a song quite as haunting as "Milk" (from their debut) - well it sure sounds as close to that as they could ever come with this song.  Someone with an on-record persona as fierce Manson has singing "It doesn't take much / for someone to shut you down" sounds silly on paper - yet sounds so haunting and real on record.  "Sugar" keeps this haunted vibe going, but adds a swirling ethereal backdrop to an otherwise barebones style of song.  A tough trick to pull off, but the band makes it work.

"Battle in Me" cranks the energy back up, with the shredding start/stop guitar attacks forming the backdrop for a tale of torture via inner demons - another subject Garbage tackles often - but never seems to sound stale doing.  And amidst all the torment, the uplifting ballad "Beloved Freak" rounds out the album and the emotional spectrum nicely - not too much of either, approximating a "just right" balance.

On album #3 and #4, Garbage seemed to be struggling with how to shape their sound.  "Beautifulgarbage" toned down the fuzz in favor of glam grunge, #4 "Bleed Like Me" was good but felt like a straight up grunge throwback.  With "Not your kind of people" Garbage have take the best of their first 2 (and most excellent back-to-back) albums and taken those good ideas forward.  The result is good enough to hope it isn't another 7 years before we hear from them again.

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