Review: Garbage Taps Into Early Magic With Strange Little Birds

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Edited by Brett Buchanan

“There are things in my life that I’ve always wanted to talk about and I’ve been too scared or didn’t have the skill to articulate because it’s too important to me. So going into this record, I wanted to be vulnerable”
Shirley Manson

On June 10th, Garbage will release their latest album Strange Little Birds. In a recent interview with Alternative Nation, vocalist Shirley Manson described the band’s intent for Strange Little Birds:

“We all wanted to really concentrate on atmospheres this time. We’ve been guilty in the past of only focusing on songwriting. On this record the focus was on atmosphere and the feeling of something. The first track that you hear is an example of that. It’s not really a song. It’s more of a feeling. I think we definitely were going for more of a cinematic approach on this record.”

Strange Little Birds succeeds in creating a great atmosphere for both new and old fans alike. The lyrics tell a story of hope, insecurity, vulnerability, and romance and many of the tracks could fit right in the band’s early releases from the 90s, which also utilize great guitar riffs from a much underrated guitarist in Steve Marker. Additionally, the programming and subtle pop elements such as the tracks “Empty”, “Blackout”, “Magnetized”, and “We Never Tell” make Strange Little Birds one of the bands most quintessential releases.

Garbage’s go to focus for many tracks has been showcasing Shirley Manson’s seductive vocals, and there is no change with Strange Little Birds. “Sometimes” along with “If I Lost You” and “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed” work specifically because of the voice that is Shirley Manson. “Sometimes” is a great opening track to the album, giving the effect of the intro music for a concert to a great arena rock act, building the anticipation for what is to come. Garbage then kick into the type of tracks that made them an alternative rock powerhouse. “Empty” and “Blackout” have that strong guitar driven pop sentiment from their first two records. “Empty” is also track that the fans from the 90’s will rejoice for, while “Blackout” may be one of the best tracks in the band’s catalog, mixing a vibe that you would get from a classic Police track with a unique chorus that elevates the song to great heights.

Another gem on this record that is one of the band’s greatest collaborative efforts is “So We Can Stay Alive,” which is also classic Garbage.  It is full of great guitar lines that would fit nicely on the band’s self-titled debut, while “Even Though Our Love is Doomed” builds into an eccentric explosion of trippy pop bliss with Manson brooding about loss and regret in the chorus, “Even though our love is doomed, you’re the only thing worth dying for, you’re the only thing worth fighting for.” This then leads to the track “Magnetized,” which gives the listener that slight pop-rock effect that was so prolific on Garbage’s 1998 classic Version 2.0.

With Strange Little Birds, Garbage has tapped into that early magic that catapulted them to worldwide fame in the mid 90’s, and along with Deftones Gore, it seems we are off to a great start in 2016 with some stellar alternative rock albums.

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Strange Little Birds

8/10

Hear all the best from Garbage at www.alternativenation.net/radio and www.rockshowradio.net.

  • Rômulo Dessotti

    That was an insightful review. I can’t wait until the new album drops. If it sounds as good as “Empty”, then I’ll be very happy indeed.

  • Craig M

    Good review and some good insights into various tracks and how they might sound. Looking forward to when this album finally gets released.