I love music. I have so many favorite artists that it would take a month to highlight them all, and my “five-star songs” list in iTunes can play for days without a repeat.
There is one artist that eclipses them all: Garbage.
I have never been able to explain it. Garbage flies in the face of a lot of my specific musical preferences. They don’t have the best lyrics. They are not the most creative songwriters. Shirley Manson is not always a technically strong singer. They often let sophisticated production obscure the human performances that make a song.
I don’t care. I never have. There is something about their formula – Shirley Manson plus Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker – that forms the most compelling possible music for me.
That means it is a very, very big deal when they debut their first single after a nearly seven-year hiatus, interrupted by the release of just a few scant b-sides.
(Hurry up and download “Blood for Poppies” for free directly from Garbage while it is still available!)
There are many familiar facets about this song. The throbbing, undifferentiated layers of guitars and drums topped with a crisp, chiming electric. The obnoxiously fuzzy riff that at once underpins and interrupts the phrases. Shirley’s sultry, half-spoken unspooling of lyrics. An unusual bridge that interrupts and deconstructs the song, yet perfectly returns us to exactly the point where it began.
Then there is the chorus. Layered vocals as far as the ear can hear, and army of Shirley Manson in perfect, major-key harmony, obscuring all but the most rudimentary rhythms beneath her.
I love it. It screams that Garbage is still Garbage, sounding somehow the same but different. Yet, it builds that from a stingily small handful of elements that are nearly recursive, all easily referenced to past exploits. Shirley sounds fierce and comfortable, a combination of her bombshell 00s vocals and her signature 90s wratch. Yet, the lyrics are stitched-together and nearly-rapped, less of the band’s tainted love hallmark and more of catchy outliers like “When I Grow Up” or “Shut Your Mouth.”
Do the detraction mean I’ve stopped pounding this track on repeat for the past week? No. Even the worst Garbage song (which this is nowhere near) is still a song that infects my brain in a neuron-by-neuron guerrilla campaign.
Will this be the sound of Not Your Kind of People? Probably not. No single Garbage song ever communicates the full arsenal of its album – especially not the lead single. Was the dark, surging, vengeful “Vow” the most representative track of Garbage? Was the pastiche of riffs and whispered howl of “Push It” a better sample of Version 2.0 than “I Think I’m Paranoid” or “Special”? Did the gender-bending stomp of “Androgyny” adequately explain the sour pop spectacular of Beautiful Garbage? And, did the Sabbath-esque riff and sparse verses of “Why Do You Love Me” explain the stripped down, real-band sound of Bleed Like Me?
I guess that’s just one more way that Garbage stands apart from all of the other bands I love. While I struggle to dissect and define their music, with Garbage all that is an afterthought. I have an inherent trust of Garbage that no other artist I love can engender. I can’t help but dissect their songs, but for once it is beside the point. It’s not why I’m listening.
I’m listening because, over fifteen years after I first listen to the full length of their debut, they are still my favorite band on the planet.