I’ve made my love of Garbage known over the years. Their last studio album, Not Your Kind of People, was a personal favorite from 2012 and I’ve been eagerly awaiting new material ever since. And next week, that dream will be realized with the release of their sixth studio album Strange Little Birds.
In talking about the album, frontwoman Shirley Manson explains, “To me, this record, funnily enough, has the most to do with the first record than any of the previous records. It’s getting back to that beginner’s headspace.” And after listening to Strange Little Birds more times than is probably healthy, I find myself agreeing completely. Featuring 11 new tracks, the band is ready to storm out of the gate with an album that is solid, addictive, and engrossing.
Opening with “Sometimes”, I was astonished by how dark and moody the song was. There is a strong influence of Gary Numan and Nine Inch Nails here, with Manson crooning over a pulsating, almost industrial rhythm. There is an almost viciousness lurking below the roiling melody, as though there is danger just below the surface that is waiting to burst forth.
Continuing with “Empty”, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just been thrust back into the 90’s. Memories of Failure’s Fantastic Planet came to mind as the song played out. Meanwhile, “Blackout” has a subtle eeriness that compliments the entrancing yet upbeat attitude. “If I Lost You” is one of the more mellow tracks but that doesn’t mean it feels empty. Quite to the contrary, the production always ensures there is something to focus on.
Jumping forward, I want to talk about the beautiful “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed”, which continues the theme of inserting a creepy vibe that blends with something bigger, something more wonderful. Manson shines here as she whispers and croons the lyrics, a desperate quality hovering over her delivery.
“So We Can Stay Alive” is a masterful blend of the Garbage of old and the Garbage of the future. This is a song that takes from the past and breathes new life into their sound, culminating in a boisterous and exciting climax. “Amends” culminates the album with something truly epic. This is the kind of track that would fit perfectly in Gareth Evan’s The Raid and embody the tension, the explosiveness, and the poetry that film conveyed. It’s another personal favorite, one that gripped me from the first note to the last.
There’s a constant and recurring unsettling miasma that permeates throughout Strange Little Birds. It’s not overt nor is it in-your-face. Rather, it’s subtle, peeking its head out every once in a while as a rare dissonance, a minute shift in notes, a flicker of a sound. It’s deliciously creepy and I feel like it’s meant to tease the listener, letting the other emotions take precedence while it hides in the shadows, the wizard behind the curtain.
The Final Word: I can only hope that my review shows how much I love Strange Little Birds. Garbage have created an album that I will absolutely be returning to consistently.