One particular line from Garbage‘s first single, “Empty,” succinctly states everything you need to know about their new album, Strange Little Birds: “Good things come to those that wait. Or so they say.” Garbage fans have been waiting for an album like this for a while.
As the years have gone by, these four musicians have remained a close-knit group: Shirley Manson (vocals), Steve Marker (guitars, keyboards), Duke Erikson (guitars, keyboards), and Butch Vig (drums, loops) are the same outcasts and odd-balls they were in the beginning. Influenced by many musical artists and styles, they’ve always retained an eccentric blend of electronica, trip hop, punk, pop, and alternative rock. Early in their career–and still to this day–they’ve fought tooth and nail to reclaim their creative autonomy. You can chart this process through their six albums; BeautifulGarbage and Bleed Like Me act as perfect examples of what they wanted to make despite audience and label expectation. Two decades, six albums, and plenty of B-sides later and you can still feel their intensity and honesty pouring down from each song on Strange Little Birds, their second independently released album through their own label, STUNVOLUME.
For years I’ve perfected an odd hobby of pairing Garbage songs to one another, like fine wines and squishy cheeses. For instance, the earnest “Special” from Version 2.0 (1998) pairs with raspy pop of “Breaking Up The Girl” on BeautifulGarbage (2001). But I’ve always had difficulty trying to find analogues to tracks from their first self-titled album. That all changed about two weeks ago after listening to Strange Little Birds–I immediately felt that this album is the spiritual successor to Garbage (1995), particularly nodding back to their first single, “Vow.”
Garbage has always been fond of nostalgia. Last year they went on a reflective and celebratory “20 Years Queer” tour and reissued their first album, which was packed with B-sides and rarities. Strange Little Birds was created during this same stretch, so it’s no wonder it contains their fundamental ethos. Shirley Manson, Scottish rock goddess supreme, noted this connection to their musical past in a statement for the new record. “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.” Strange Little Birds isn’t an exact replica of Garbage (1995), nor was it meant to be. But it most certainly shares the same foundation, as the band burrows down to its roots.
They’ve dug themselves deep into their core with tracks like “Black Out”, a trip-hop daydream–reminiscent of The Cure or The Cocteau Twins–with full-bodied sounds from Steve, Butch, and Duke. If you want to experience Shirley’s zenith on this album, jump over to “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed.” It’s the “Milk” of Strange Little Birds, a subtle composition about the complexities of personal longing. The last segment of this song at around the 4:30 mark is a stand out, ending with a throbbing ache. And the frenzied “So We Can Stay Alive” embodies a hopeful, risky narration that they’ve been excevating for decades: say it loud, say it proud! The volume and intensity of this record makes one thing clear above all else: this won’t be the last we’ve heard of Garbage.
Let us know how you feel about Strange Little Birds and Garbage. Does it remind you of their first album? What are some of your favorite Garbage memories? Leave your comments below!