Shirley Manson is an avenger. Since Garbage emerged in 1995, their albums have mixed aggressive digital rock with the lashings Manson gives to liars, conformists and other villains. She’s a red-haired sister of vampire-slaying Buffy Summers, another Nineties heroine. The first new Garbage album in seven years is like a film sequel where familiar characters haven’t changed much – especially Manson,who still cherishes the wary alertness of adolescence.
Manson and her three bandmates – most notably Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana‘s Nevermind – create an unstable world where guitars and drums are altered and distorted until they’re otherworldly. Every note might be a hallucination, a theme Manson declares clearly in “Felt” (“What is real? Is real reason?”) and “Blood for Poppies,” narrated by a drug operative who’s stranded in Afghanistan. There are enough effects and musical fight sequences to make Michael Bay jealous, but trickery means nothing without a sympathetic star. The plot, as in all superhero stories, is Manson’s struggle to find a comfortable spot in the human world. So even at her most cynical, on “I Hate Love,” she remains hopeful and hungry for more. As the song fades, Manson has one last thing to say to the betrayer she’s blown away: “Can you call me back?”
Listen to ‘Not Your Kind of People’:
• Photos: Random Notes