23 November 2016

Garbage - Strange Little Birds


Garbage are a band that will need no introduction to some, a brief introduction to others; well, let's do the briefest of history lessons - Garbage were formed in 1993 by Shirley Manson, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker & Butch Vig, the band were firstly more famous for being composed with three producers and the ex-singer from Angelfish/backing singer from Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie.  That soon changed when they delivered their first album 'Garbage', which contained hits such as 'Vow', 'Stupid Girl' & 'Queer'.  They would release a further three records ('Version 2.0', 'Beautiful Garbage' & 'Bleed Like Me') before going on hiatus in 2005 and if the truth be told, that is a state of affairs that lots of people thought would continue.  Then in 2012 they released 'Not Your Kind of People' and it is an album I am still yet to listen to, as usual this is down to the usual "not enough time in the world to listen to every record ever".  But I have been wanting to listen to it, much the same way I want to listen to 'Strange Little Birds'; I want to see where Garbage are in 2016, what makes them tick and how their sound has changed since 'Garbage'.

01 – Sometimes

Starting with strings and a piano, the album soon gives way to an industrial piece that could be from any early Nine Inch Nails album.  It is a stop/start number with slow synth and machine punches throughout the song, which is very short by Garbage standards.  I am not engaging with this song, it leaves before it can give a lasting impression and feels wasted to be honest.

02 – Empty

The first song to be released from the album, 'Empty' gives the audience a taste of old school Garbage with its industrial influenced sound, high energy and lyrics of emotional upheaval.  This time it is a strange one where the target is the self and not someone else.  It is a good tune, nothing that I have not heard before - but few can pull this off in a way that Ms Manson and co can achieve.

03 – Blackout

They are all about their long atmospheric introductions on this album, aren’t they?   ‘Blackout’ is more dark alternative industrial rock, with a hint of pop to the sound as well.  The verses are draw out slowly and the chorus sections are decent, but it is not as engaging as other songs on this album.

04 – If I Lost You

‘If I Lost You’ is very atmospheric, a slow number with a machine background, minimal guitars and a lot of silences that are hard to ignore.  A love song with more paranoia and self-doubt, it feels as if the confidence of the singer is only being kept together by the band.  However, this song feels longer than the four minutes that it is actually in the world, the gaps in the music are too hard to ignore and it feels like a drain on you.

05 - Night Drive Loneliness

As empty as ‘If I Lost You’ feels, ‘Night Drive Loneliness’ contains so much emotion and drive that it is a sonic leap forward.  It is a song about working the night, awaiting a command to attend without any warning.  Much like the best percentage of this album it is a darker, moodier number that is the current calling card of the band, but this time it has that style about it that has always been the best part of Garbage, a bit of attitude to it and that makes the difference for this song.

06 - Even Though Our Love Is Doomed

A song about a doomed relationship which is destined to self-destruction, preordained to descend into hades in a glorious flame; the only thing that is going to erupt from this relationship is two changed people, with strange memories and maybe still in love.  This is yet another moody industrial rock piece, yet another one that has gaps and drops for the sound to be absorbed in; but they are used correctly here, to add shade to the music and make it stand out.  It is the best song on offer here, one of the few pieces to match their own high standards for this writer.

07 – Magnetized

This song is one that feels like it should be explosive, like it could be a volatile song that would showcase those rock elements of the band.  It does this in brief places such as the chorus and the bridge, but there is an awful lot of waste on here for my tastes.  The minimalist approach to a lot of the song is draining once again and when it finally comes to life, the interest has long since dissipated. 

08 - We Never Tell

We have energy in the song on this number, but the vocals are in contrasting form with a slow and moody style that never feels like a natural fit to the music.  It feels like there are two different songs happening here and it does not mesh together as well as it should.  I am going to move onto the next song, probably for the best.

09 - So We Can Stay Alive

There is a hint of the dramatic to this song, it is loud and explosive in places here in a way that has been sorely missing on the album.  It finally feels like it has found the attitude that made their earlier records so engaging, that bite to the performance and words that can be created when the fire is in the belly and the delivery is spot on.  Definitely one of the high points of this records, but it does go on for a few beats too long.

10 - Teaching Little Fingers to Play

The penultimate song of this album is back to their minimal sound, the lyrics about discovering yourself and making it out in the world after coming out of a long relationship.  Musically the song is back to the minimal tone of earlier songs on the album, but the lyrics are very interesting and the story of discovering yourself is to be applauded from the highest peaks.

11 – Amends

‘Amends’ ends the album as it started; stranded in the black, dark sound of minimal industrial music and taking so long to reach its point.  The song is about making amendments, seeking to rebuilt burnt bridges and absolution from one’s sins.  The song takes so long to reach the dramatic sections, the interest has drifted and it is all a little too late sadly.  It could have been a great song; the final result sadly is rather average if the truth be told.

I think the issue I have here is pace and to a certain extent – style.  This aims to be a moody, artistic statement that would have been so good in my teens & early twenties; it is missing the fire of youth for that to work and the self-doubting is also very unnerving as this is not what I would expect from a band who were so confident and full of energy.  I really do wish I could be more positive about this album as it was hailed as a return to form, etc, etc, etc; sadly, I find it to be a strange creature that has lost its way slightly.  It is not performed badly and the songs are generally alright, but it is just so average in some many places that it is easy to ignore and the overall mark kept on falling.  I am sorry to say, this is not the album I would have hoped for.

5 out of ten – It could have been better

Top Track – Even Though Our Love Is Doomed

You can purchase Strange Little Birds on Amazon here.

You can visit the Garbage website here.

You can follow the activities of Garbage on Facebook here.

You can stream Strange Little Birds on Deezer here.

You can stream Strange Little Birds on Spotify here.

You can stream Strange Little Birds on Tidal here.

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