Quartet’s comeback ticks many of the same boxes as previous successful LPs.
Tom Hocknell 2012-05-10
Formed in 1994, Garbage delivered consistently anthemic electronic rock that occupied airwaves with conspicuous ease in the mid-to-late-90s. The singles Special, Queer and Stupid Girl brought phenomenal success, though they never quite shrugged the impression that they were Butch Vig’s (producer of Nevermind) band of session musicians, despite singer Shirley Manson looking the very epitome of a pop icon. Their run ended in 2005 as they declared a hiatus, amid complaints of their label treating them as a commodity.
It is the opportunity to self-release that has brought about this, their fifth album. Recording in LA for the first time, there’s no discernible difference to the band’s sound; Garbage have returned pretty much exactly as they left. Which could be seen as disappointing, given Manson’s past claim that she was sick of "the loops and the electronics and the guitars", so much so that in 2006 she worked with The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan on an unlikely-to-ever-be-released solo record.
But Not Your Kind of People quickly makes its mark, with Automatic Systematic Habit strutting into focus with Vocoder vocals and Rolling Stones-aping riffs, while Control conjures the unlikely parallel of The Smiths on steroids. Both demonstrate the joyful abandonment in surrendering yourself to sing-along industrial pop angst.
As with 2005’s Bleed Like Me album, guitars are to the fore. Blood for Poppies should be occupying drive-time playlists as effectively as anything they’ve done in the past, with calculated (albeit fairly nonsensical) vocals: "I don't know why they are calling on the radio." The song also establishes fresh rock'n'roll priorities: "I miss my dog / and I miss my freedom."
Manson denies Garbage succumbed to the recent trend of reunions, but that is exactly what this is. Following her stint acting in TV’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, that show’s loss is our gain. There are misses: the title track is as forgettable as their theme tune to a particularly unremarkable Bond film (The World is Not Enough), while the bitter I Hate Love should have been left scrawled on the toilet wall.
But despite occasional lapses into overproduced mess, the surprise here is their enthusiasm. It might be business as usual compositionally, and public demand for another Garbage album was questionable; but this set will stir interest in both fans and casual listeners alike.