Today marks the release date of Garbage’s sixth studio album, Strange Little Birds. Whether you’ve kept up with the band through the years, or you’ve relegated its early hits to the same dusty corner as other 90’s staples, the foursome’s new album is sure to hit a sweet spot.
Garbage Strange Little Birds Review
Two years in the making, the album has been called a departure back to the original Garbage sound by frontwoman Shirley Manson. But with darker lyrics punctuating an otherwise “romantic” album, it’s not as ssaccharine as other albums currently dotting the pop-landscape.
From the intro-like “Sometimes” to the final “Amends,” the album has been described by Manson as a catalog of sentiments aimed at past romances – moving at times from sweet and sentimental to dark and brooding, even as the characteristically eclectic Garbage sound moves from pop to rock while heisting cues from such genres as shoegaze and metal.
All of this is glazed in a veneer of electronica, with synthesizers laying a background foundation for some songs, while grinding to the fore in others.
The second track and first single of the album, “Empty,” utilizes a guitar-driven rock sound with a minimalist aura complimented by straightforward, melancholic lyrics.
Things don’t get much sunnier with “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed,” where guitars and synthesizers meld with Manson’s voice to build into a violent, beautiful crescendo. Sure, this is one depressing track, but it’s beautiful and haunting in just how depressing it gets.
While things might seem to brighten up a tad in “Magnetized,” with a chorus that seems straight out of 2016’s next big rom-com, the opening lines keep any mistaken elation in check:
I’m not in love, I’m not in love
And there will be no future tense for us
Just like the synthesizers wending their way through the album, a common vein of sadness surfaces now and again in the lyrics themselves.
No matter how pop Garbage can sound on Strange Little Birds, Garbage is still Garbage – strange, quirky, and now, sad. Which isn’t to say that this tone is necessarily bad. Indeed, it’s a more mature sound than we’ve heard from past Garbage efforts – one that’s a little dark, but still aching in its attempt to capture and revel in a perverse sense of perfection.
If you’re not a fan of love songs, you may find Strange Little Birds a hard pill to swallow. The tracks themselves are all responses to Shirley Manson’s past relationships. Even on dismal heavy-hitters like “Empty,” there is still a sense that it’s aimed at someone, somewhere. The vague lyrical intent of the closing track, “Amends,” is juxtaposed with palpable emotion in the singer’s voice. Who did her wrong?
Ultimately, the album becomes a jagged mix of soft and hard vocals crooning sweet and sour lyrics, drizzled over mountains of sound. If you were a fan of the band back in the day, or if you just want a break from Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and all that bullshit, go check it out. If you have ten bucks and a half-decent internet connection, what the hell, just go buy the damn thing. It’s that good. It’s great. It’s pure Garbage.