Monday, June 4, 2012

Garbage - Great New Record - What Shitty Band Are You In? (Part 1)

Garbage has a new album, Not Your Kind Of People, and to these ears it sounds pretty fucking fabulous. I have to admit, I haven't listened to Garbage much in the past - let's just say I was busy when they were in their heyday and I'm just catching up and on.

If you're wondering about this review's title, here's the deal. While I haven't been terribly intimate with Manson, Vig, and Company in the past, I do have a bit of indie cred. I spent a great part of the last ten years living in the apartment below maybe the greatest American songwriter of the last twenty-five years, my old friend Robert Pollard, he of indie rock legends Guided By Voices. I've known Bob since I was ten years old, played with him in several bands, made a record or two with him, and served as musical director in his first post GBV project, The Moping Swans. I live in a town that drips indie, and while I am a bit more high tech, I get it. Pollard always bristled at those too lazy, untalented, and afraid to stick their necks out creatively, and once, upon being fed up with the non-doers unwillingness to do anything except bitch about what he was doing, he had some T-shirts printed up that said simply: Guided By Voices - "What Shitty Band Are You In?"

In tribute to my old pal, and everyone else over 40 and still having the balls and bluster to put out their art (such as Garbage), I ask those who sit back and criticize:

So - What shitty band are you in? If you're in no band at all, if you don't do anything towards making rock a better place, then perhaps you should take the advice that Barry Bonds couldn't. Maybe you should just shut the fuck up.

I first heard some material off the new record, and thought that it sounded just great. The songs sounded well written, the band is as tight as can be, the vocals great, and the production is superb. First thing I did was to read a few recent reviews. Most were pretty positive, but there was a good deal of print that chided the band for either not sounding up to their past, or trapped in and by said past. It was here that I feel I had an advantage. I could listen with fairly fresh ears - I was not jaded by their history, or even too familiar with their past. What I found, I liked, and liked a lot.

Automatic System Habit opens the record with an intro that made me think that if Cream's White Room had been written in this century it may have sounded a bit like this, then the band slams into a very modern rage against dishonesty. Shirley Manson's vocals are just great - she's obviously not lost a note in the seven years since the band's last record, 2005's Bleed Like Me. The guitars rage, fairly jumping out of the mix in your face, the drums pound with exuberance and precision, and there is enough electronica to keep things from ever being pedestrian. This is the sound of righteous indignation, of pissed offedness, and I like it. It rocks.

The next track, Big Bright World, delivers a huge dose of what I thought rock of the '90s promised, but never really delivered with regularity. None of the out of tune, out of time, unironed, unshaved mess of shit that I heard way too often throughout what I have come to call rock's lost decade. This sounds like a natural progression of where electronic pop should have headed after Bowie went to Berlin, and The Cure made androgyny so appealing. It's melodic, it's driving, and there's no shortage of delicious ear candy. Two tracks in, and I have no idea what any critic could find to bitch about.

If you can hear Blood For Poppies and not want to be whipping out this crazy cool guitar riff and dancing beside Manson as she delivers this tale, you're sure less ambitious than I. Any fan of rock should just be thrilled that they have something this good to listen to in this time of the Kali Yuga.

Not Your Kind Of People has instant classic written all over it. Manson delivers a tour de force, laying out the band's current manifesto, and displaying a knack for melody and phrasing that changes wonderfully in each of the song's luxurious sections. I listen to this and marvel at how hipster music journalists can harp about overproduction, or to call this pedestrian. I'm guessing these overpaid fucknuts have a negativity quotient they must hit, and since the band are recording and distributing on their own dime, these idiots' overseers don't have to worry about alienating advertisers or otherwise biting the hands that feed. This is an extremely satisfying listen. I love what the UK's The Guardian said about this track, "A beautiful, otherworldly cross between a John Berry Bond theme and a David Bowie outsider anthem."

This record is going to sound great onstage. It's relentless in its tones, textures, and melodies. Garbage sound hungry, angry, and pent up - never a bad thing in rock and roll.

Shirley Manson writes some fairly dark lyrics, and often seems to revel in this darkness, but through it all I can generally see a lot of light. Garbage come off as maybe the ultimate insider's outsiders. Over-talented in a time when talent is scorned, ambitious when all seem s hopeless, and above all not about to bow down to the lies, the disillusions, and the assholes who aren't even in a shitty band - let alone a brilliant band.

This record is a bit outside of my normal world, and I'm damned glad it came to visit. It made me smile, it makes me dance, and inspires me to pick up my guitar, call my old friend Bob, and see if he's ready to make another shitty little record. I didn't spend much time on the musicians' individual contributions, but they are all uniformly brilliant and inspired, and for that, I salute them.

If you dig rock - dig this. Smashing, bashing guitars and drums, hummable melodies, and loads of interesting soundscapery. Fuck the critics - they'll never love you for long.

I'm going to wrap this up with a statement the band recently released that says more than I can about where they are at - I'll end by asking one simple question:

What Shitty Band Are You In?

Garbage's statement:

"'Okay so honestly….let’s not retread the history that precedes this record. It’s all on the Internet for anyone to have at it. If you have any interest at all….you can Google anything you need to know about us in five minutes flat. Just please ignore the stuff about me dropping a poo in an ex boyfriends cornflakes and we’re all good.

Suffice to say we have been gone for seven years. We now are experiencing what is commonly known as the seven year itch, except instead of wanting to leave each other, we want to return to one another. We have made, arguably, the best record of our career. You may hate it. In which case you have no need to read any further.

For those of you who have a further curiosity let me say this: We quit in the middle of our last tour and went home because we were sick and tired of our record company wanting us to make money whatever the cost to our morals or our bodies. We quit and went home because we couldn’t stand another backstage hang with anyone from the aforementioned record company. They quite literally were making us sick.

We quit and went home and built ourselves a life outside of Garbage and outside of music and outside of the rest of the world. Then we got bored of doing that and pretty much began to obsess about making music again. We got together about a year ago now in a small studio in Atwater Village, Los Angeles. There we recorded all of the songs on this new record we are calling “Not Your Kind Of People”.

We wrote, recorded and mixed it ourselves, old school style.

We are self-releasing it on our own record label STUNVOLUME, via Liberator Music in Australia, new school style.

The title of this record is kind of our mission statement. For too long we almost felt like apologizing for the fact that we didn’t fit in musically with any kind of scene. We didn’t fit in with the electronic scene even though we used electronica. We didn’t fit in with the hipster scene even though we were pretty popular. (Probably because we got too popular. We sold 13 million records over the course of our career.) And we didn’t fit in with the alt rock scene either.

We just didn’t fit in. We never have.

Now we accept this fact and are happy about our outsider status. We realize that we don’t sound like anyone else and that is a pretty hard thing to achieve in this current climate where we all have access to an infinite sea of musical possibilities. To have hold on a unique sound is a currency of which we are proud.

If you have further interest in us or the making of this record, please feel free to schedule an interview with our press office. We will be happy to accommodate your curiosity. Otherwise I think we are done here. Don’t you?

Thanks for reading.'


Thanks to Brian, Ibo, and Sam from BB Gun Press!

No comments: