Garbage gets back in the game with Not Your Kind of People
Not Your Kind of People (Stun Volume)
Not Your Kind of People is the first new Garbage album since 2005, but it feels as if the band has been gone longer than that. The project, comprising singer Shirley Manson, multi-instrumentalist Duke Erikson, guitarist-keyboardist Steve Marker, and drummer Butch Vig, peaked commercially and creatively in the ’90s, after delivering the one-two punch of Garbage (1995) and Version 2.0 (1998).
Fortuitous timing arguably played as much of a role as talent in the quartet’s success. Hit singles like “Stupid Girl” and “Push It” had just enough grungy grit for the Lollapalooza generation but were slick enough to pass as pop music. (Vig had already helped drag alternative rock kicking and screaming into the mainstream, having produced Nirvana’s Nevermind, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, and Sonic Youth’s Dirty.) They also featured enough synths and sequencing to sound relevant at a time when electronica was supposedly consigning rock ’n’ roll to the dustbin of history. Perhaps most significantly, Manson effectively conjured up a veneer of fashionably seething angst while maintaining enough glamour to compensate for what her bandmates lacked in that department. She looked good in music videos, and that was important, because MTV and Much Music used to broadcast those back in the day.
Garbage sort of fell off the radar in the new millennium. There were a couple of new albums that didn’t quite live up to the high standard the band had set for itself, and then, apart from the 2007 compilation Absolute Garbage, relative silence.
Now, though, there’s Not Your Kind of People, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound just like a Garbage album. That means big, shiny tunes with slamming beats and anthemic choruses, which are business as usual. It also means the odd left turn, such as the title cut, which adds spaghetti-western guitar to a trip-hop groove before soaring heavenward into a choir-of-angels refrain. And then there’s “Felt”, which takes the calculated risk of blending Manson’s vocals into a wall of guitar that finds common ground between the Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. (Actually, it sounds a lot like Curve, but that’s no big shock; Garbage has always sounded at least a little like Curve.) Elsewhere, the jagged “Man on a Wire” might be the hardest this outfit has ever rocked, while “Beloved Freak” ends the album on a slow-burning note of gauzy-textured dream pop.
It’s all pretty good, and not surprisingly, it all sounds fantastic. At this point, though, Garbage is making music for people who are already Garbage fans. The fact that the band’s big pop-culture moment—and that moment was undeniably the mid ’90s—has long since passed means that Not Your Kind of People probably won’t expand its following a whole lot. Not that Manson, Vig, Erikson, and Marker are likely to care about that. The fact that the four are still making music together after so many years out of the spotlight is a pretty clear indication that they’re doing so for themselves and for the diehards anyway.