"The new animal collective has already leaked! Well who can you trust...
With the famed producer Butch Vig, of Nirvana's "Nevermind" & "In Utero"/ Smashing Pumpkin's "Siamese Dream", and the late 90s sex symbol/Singer Shirley Manson it's easy to see why grunge would carry past the boundaries of a pop band. While no one in their right mind would dare call this band grunge I would be glad to carry the "G" in their name to the description of "pop-grunge". I have also had the miss fortune of hearing albums like "Let Your Dim Light Shine", by Soul Asylum, and "Secret Samadhi", by Live, tare some of the best Post-Grunge bands to their knees (voluntarily).
In a Recent Interview with SPIN Magazine Shirley makes it clear that fans will get what they want, "It's not our job to reinvent the wheel., That's the playground of the young.", but which old rickety wheel is she referring to..? because they left us on the 3rd wheel back in 2005. Rising to fame from the hype behind Butch Vig finally racking up the drums behind a full band, Garbage's accessible version of 90s rock unicycles across the top 40 finish line [Twice (on self titled, and 2.0)]. (get ready because the wheel references aren't over) While it's a feat to watch, uni-cycling isn't really a diverse or practical way to travel so, to keep their fans from getting bored, Garbage elected to try out a raw 90s pop album and added a second wheel. While the opener on "Beautiful Garbage", "Shut Your Mouth", hit hard the rest of the album features Butch Vig screwing with only production while everything else just danced around it. Tracks like "Androgyny" or "Chary Lips (Go Baby Go)" showed that they could pull it off but I'm not the only one who needed some more of a punch from them. Two wheels still arrant stable but all you have to do for more support is give it some gas (just in case no you never rode a bike), though Garbage wasn't looking for a quick fix. To prove "Beautiful" wasn't a sell out the band built one of those weird "Chinese 3 wheelers" and released "Bleed Like Me". Garbage wasn't going to fall back on the talent that made the famous. They where, how ever, going to "Run Baby Run" from their last album and ditch the electronics for, almost, a pure rock album. Fans don't leave after one flop but after getting a second album from a band that they didn't expect, return to form or not, a fan base will get unstable; so it's about time they relies maybe 3 wheels isn't a smart design... (DO YOU HEAR ME CHINA!)
Years later we go back to see them and, instead of trying to stabilize the car with 4 wheels, they're back at trying to master a sport they where great at almost a decade ago. It's clear that they've gotten better at it over the years and even become natural with it but now they're using the old parts as obstacles because no one would buy them. While they're old sound has left music almost all together they had no trouble taking it back but not without the affect of their past career. Just as their last two albums couldn't leave the support of their first two this new album wouldn't let it's former two fall behind (a quick break from wheel references).
The first single "Blood for Poppies" made it clear they where going back on the first wheel but it's not in the shape to make it over the obstacles. The heavy bass and guitar riffs on that track felt just like the Garbage I love but the chorus felt left over from "Beautiful" and the same can be said about the opener "Automatic Systematic Habit" and the whole of track 2, "Big Bright World". After the first three tracks pass I loose even more interest in the next 3 tracks, I am inferring that I liked "BFP" & "ASH". "Control" has some really nice vocal samples over the hook (and a really nice climax), and so does "Felt" but as whole songs they fall a little flat. Sadly "flat" is all I get out of the title track and it puts me back at the end of "Bleed Like Me" where tracks like "Why Don't You Come Over" and "Happy Home" leave me hanging. Thankfully, the next 4 tracks make me feel like I'm sitting in a room watching my favorite 90s pop/rock band wright at their best. "I Hate Love" and "Sugar" both start with the kind of production I loved on parts of "Beautiful" and then hit with the emotion of "2.0". "Battle In Me" and "Man On a Wire" don't mess around and hit you with Garbage grade aggression that is almost mosh worthy. "Beloved Freak", like "All Over but the Crying", "Milk" or "You Look So Fine", is a mood song and when you're in that mood it's on of the best on the album meaning Butches Production takes over (it may also be the first Garbage song to feature foreign a sample, correct me if I'm wrong).
My first impressions of the album where 30 second samples that the band uploaded on their youtube channel and if you heard them you would get my hype. They all featured the best of Butch Vig production on this album which is, as usual, top notch, but when you listen to everything else around them they can loose potency and aggressiveness. This album makes me ask "what happened to this part of Garbage I really like?". When they dismantled the car (yep the references are back) what happened to sex in the back seat? I always loved hearing Shirley talk about her sex life like any other male singer. Why can't she talk like a pervert like she did on "Queer", "You Look So Fine", "Cherry Lips" and "Bad Boy Friend", this is the first album without any of that; it's also clear that age took some of the seductiveness out of her voice. Where is the influence I heard from The Pixies and The Breeders on "Bleed Like Me" Shirley Manson is no less capable of writing like that (yes I'm saying she's still hot). Why are you backing off when you used to say "Sex Is Not The Enemy"?
"Lies more lies, I can tell there lies" ("ASH"), I wouldn't say Garbage has been the best at writing lyrics but there are very few spots on this album where I hear any sort of subtleties and there is redundancy all over this which isn't what I expect from a band like this. "What a joke, but do you hear me laughing" ("Battle In Me"), This is what I feel about a lot of the verses on this album. This is the first Garbage album I've had to groan through and this is without mentioning all of the "Shake It, Shake It, Shake It off"s on this thing.
Garbage has a choice to make from this album on; they can either ride the sound that there fans adore or they can decide to experiment and keep us from getting bored. I understand they aren't out to, "re-invent the wheel" anymore but I'm no more asking for that then I'm asking for another album. "Bleed Like Me" was nothing new to the system but it was defiantly Garbage in a new light and I see no reason for them to not try it again, or maybe even pull another influence out from under their belt. Any casual fan of post-grunge will like this album but Garbage risks loosing listeners like me by becoming another Everclear or Gin Blossoms; both of which are good bands but I haven't felt the need to care about them seance they fell into a rut and stopped evolving. Garbage is still a band I want to fallow because I know they won't disappoint but they run the risk of become "another one of those bands" so I ask them to please wright music more naturally instead of just trying to pleas your fans.
The Note Pad:
Other post-grunge bands: Everclear, Gin Blossoms, pre "Secret Samadhi" Live, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, pre "Let Your Dim Light Shine" Soul Asylum
Other bands you might like: No Doubt, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, maybe Paramore, Mother Love Bone