Published by JB on June 25, 2016
Release Date: June 10, 2016
Album Review: Garbage / Strange Little Birds
“I rail and I ache, at the monsters and the demons. I’ve wrestled with for eons, and I want to destroy” by Shirley Manson from ‘Empty’ off Strange Little Birds
Garbage’s sixth album and only their second in the past eleven years is an uneven ode to their ongoing tug of war with their Mount Rushmore standing of power indie rock and pop at its best. Long gone are the days when Shirley Manson could look you in the eye and sing new songs titled ‘Queer’ and ‘Stupid Girl’. We’re now filled up with titles of loss and emptiness (hence the titles of the first six tracks, in sequence are ‘Sometimes’, ‘Empty’, ‘Blackout’, ‘If I Lost You’, ‘Night Drive Loneliness’, ‘Even Though Our Love is Doomed’). Let’s keep the sharp objects hidden away in the kitchen folks.
Relentless in her emotion though, Manson is still a true powerhouse. The world of music is so much better with her in it (and her social media postings are also rock solid – a true rarity in 2016). Her delivery on the ethereal (and utterly perfect) ‘Night Drive Loneliness’ is not only an album highlight – it’s perhaps the band’s best mid-tempo blend of buoyant bliss since the sublime ‘You Look So Fine’ from 1998’s sophomore release ‘2.0‘. “I’m so nervous, like a cat on a hot tin roof and I want to get wasted, forget all about it, like the blue dress in my closet, over and over again” Manson tells with words that bleed. Preceded by the equally beautiful ‘If I Lost You’ it’s a dynamite 10 minutes of compelling Shirley Manson drama. You can see her eyes closed, giving you more of herself in a couple songs than she’ll ever freely give up again. Yet the listener’s hopes remain that Manson has yet more to give.
Unwittingly though, the album takes a left turn towards its less compelling tracks. ‘Magnetized’, ‘We Never Tell’ and ‘So We Can Stay Alive’ bring the momentum to a louder, traditional Garbage-sound halt; never opening new doors for Garbage and more so looking backwards with a high-five to better songs from their past catalog.
The hypnotic throwback “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” leads into an underwhelming clulminating with the six-minute pulsating ‘Amends’; which just never seems to ignite. All the blood and sweat that Manson and the band poured into the album isn’t enough to push it to any elite status; but maybe that’s not their intent. The band resumes its crisp, bright, beautiful sound (a trademark of anything associated with Vig) but the songs as a whole merely provide an eyewink capstone to the always-unknown future of Garbage. For now, every nugget we get should be cherished.