In 1995, alternative rock was hitting its commercial pinnacle. Grunge had replaced pop at the top of the charts and angst ridden, flannel wearing guitar bands were ubiquitous. In the middle of it all was a small, but powerful group of women redefining their gender’s traditional role in the music industry. Brandishing an explosive sexuality and snarling rage, Shirley Manson stomped to the front and center of the scene and introduced us to Garbage. Garbage took the alt rock template and injected it with the beats and blips of the burgeoning electronica trend. The result was as surprisingly catchy as it was aggressive. Four albums later, the band announced an indefinite hiatus and many fans, myself included assumed that they were finished. Fast forward to now and Garbage is back.
The new album Not Your Kind of People sounds like it is stuck in 1995 in the best way possible. Garbage has never been afraid to play with their initial sound, even if some of the results were decidedly mixed. Not Your Kind… is “vintage” garbage. Most of the tracks would fit right along previous hits like “Only Happy When It Rains” or “I Think I’m Paranoid.” The furious percussion, aggressive guitars, and lusty vocals remain gloriously Garbage.
Songs like “Control” and “Felt” are examples of the buzzing, bombastic anthems that the band deliver like no other, while the title track exposes the dreamier, halcyon-infused side of their sonic palette. Across these 11 new tracks Garbage have rekindled their ability to have you gyrating and sweating one moment, then lulled by Manson’s hushed, brooding and sensual delivery on a song like “Sugar,” which could easily be the drugged sister of their debut album’s closer, “Milk.”
The album’s highlight, for me, is “I Hate Love.” The arrangement is all sexual menace, driving and anxious. Manson’s vocal delivery is scarily sweet, initially floating, nearly detached, over the the top of the track before diving into the chorus and filling up all of the spaces between the heavily digitized beats. It’s the most modern interpretation of the band’s signature sound on the record.
And therein lies the only complaint I have with the record. While it is, in many ways, wonderfully nostalgic to dive back into a record that feels so completely Garbage, I wonder how much more I would have enjoyed the band pushing things forward just a bit more. Their sound was bracingly original in 1995. While it remains exhilarating today, I can’t help but wonder how much more I would have enjoyed a bit more experimentation.
Not Your Kind of People is out May 15th everywhere.