x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Not trash, this, it's Garbage with Not Your Kind of People

The past two decades have offered few greater musical oddities than Garbage. There was just nothing about the band that ever really made sense.

Not Your Kind of People
Stunvolume
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The past two decades have offered few greater musical oddities than Garbage. There was just nothing about the band that ever really made sense.

How had a bunch of bearded men from Wisconsin hooked up with a Scottish redhead who looked like she could beat anyone in a fight? How had Butch Vig, the man who produced Nirvana's era-defining rock record Nevermind, suddenly ended up in a band that scattered their songs with keyboards and electronic percussion? What was it about the misfit group that enabled them to sell a staggering 17 million albums, while most of their late-1990s contemporaries were consigned to the musical dustbin of history?

Back after a seven-year hiatus, Garbage's fifth full-length release sees them returning to the electronics-laden pop-rock of their first two (and undisputedly best) albums. The opener Automatic System Habit is a song of almost Gaga-esque grandiosity.

But although the band could be accused of aping the megastar with robot-vocals and throbbing rhythms, it's worth remembering that the singer Shirley Manson was herself once a contender for the title of pop's most compelling and enigmatic female.

Control and Big Bright World almost answer some of the perennial questions, namely: how did the band manage to sell so many records, and how are they still around? Both tunes offer the kind of giant hooks that allowed them to saturate the airwaves and fill stadiums around the world more than a decade ago.

It's when they try to do something other than make radio-friendly rock that the cracks begin to emerge. The title track, a drowsy lament to the disposed, is an attempt at giving the album some emotional depth. But the song just comes-off as unconvincing and muddled, as well as offering one of the worst opening lines in recent memory.

Later on, I Hate Love seems designed for dance floors rather than rock clubs, but there's something a little geriatric about it.

The album is unlikely to catapult Garbage back to the dizzy heights of their heyday, but it's an achievement, nonetheless. How have a group that always reeked of gimmickry managed to stick around for 18 years? Having no shortage of catchy tunes is part of it, but there's also something about today's musical landscape - which has seen alternative culture hungrily consumed into the mainstream - that allows the band to fit right back in.