Album Review: Garbage

not your kind of people (stun volume)

With a seven year absence and a split from record company, Warner Bros, Not Your Kind Of People is Garbage's self-released comeback; an electro-charged, grunge/pop style being their default setting.

Their first album since 2005, Garbage's style is a little different from their Nineties blend of grunge, employing some more theatrical electronic sounds and fuzzy guitars. But it's been almost two decades since lead singer, Shirley Manson, was part of a new generation of attitude-heavy female musicians who were inspired by the 'riot grrrl' movement, including the likes of Alanis Morissette, PJ Harvey, Skin (of Skunk Anansie) and of course, Courtney Love. Now Manson is in her forties, has anything changed?

The album's opener, Automatic Systematic Habit is a catchy Pop track laden with big synths, processed beats and Manson's distinctive, assertive vocals including the hook, "I won't be your dirty little secret". In essence, it's a full throttle track which utilizes all the band's strengths setting the bar for the album's remainder.

There are a few tracks on the record that boast arena-worthy settings thanks to their crunchy hooks and ambient accompaniments, Big Bright World, Control and Battle In Me, being the most obvious, while other songs have a Rockier/Punkier edge; Man On A Wire and lead single, Blood For Poppies. It's clear why the latter was chosen for the single; the chorus is an irritatingly memorable, sing-along nightmare. The song's only regaining features being the driving wah-wah pedal, choppy guitar rhythm and the heavier, main riff which delivers a great, sinister-sounding bend to it.

When this album was first announced, the real anticipation was not so much Garbage's comeback, but the knowledge that prestigious producer and all-round legend, Butch Vig would be putting his magic touch to the record. However, known for his work with many bands such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins, it's a shame to say that Butch Vig's input didn't help to sway my preference towards Garbage any more. Although a supremely slick, glossy and radio-friendly output, the record isn't anything particularly outstanding.

For me, the most notable moments are when Manson shifts from angst-ridden and attitude-stricken to unveil a more vulnerable side; a nice contrast from the spiker, electro-fuelled pop. Some of the most interesting parts of the record emerge in title track, Not Your Kind Of People, revealing a softer side to Manson's vocals and a sense of otherworldliness. Sugar is yet further removed; minimalist accompaniment and sparse beats linger, whilst almost whisper-like lines seem to effortlessly float from Manson's throat "Give me sugar / give me something sweet / I've spent a lifetime feeling incomplete". By far the best on the album.

Not Your Kind Of People is a very stylish and well-arranged album, but minus a few catchy hooks and poppy electro synths, there's not much signalling a new direction for the band. Despite some fleeting moments reminiscent of their previous high points, it seems they've lost their more aggressive approach and exchanged it for something distinctly middle-of-the-road.