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Garbage - Strange Little Birds

  • Written by  Marky Edison

When they returned from hiatus in 2011 lead singer Shirley Manson said that Garbage wanted to write a “bummer album”. They have certainly done that here. Garbage were always popular with the goth/emo crowd but their music was on the pop end of the spectrum. 'Only Happy When It Rains' was the perfect accompaniment to Mateus Rosé and self-conscious dancing. Strange Little Birds is more suited to sitting in a darkened room crying into a full-bodied red. They've gone full-on Disintegration on this one. The Cure influence hangs heavy over Strange Little Birds, with some The Downward Spiral-era Nine Inch Nails for good measure.

Garbage initially called their hiatus due to record company pressures and the restrictive expectations on their music. Freed from such constraints they have made an album that you would never have suspected they had in them. Strange Little Birds starts with reverbed Trent Reznor-style piano chords which give way to effected beats and sweeping synths as 'Sometimes' sets the tone for the album to come. Lead single 'Empty' is the most Garbage-sounding song on the album. It is hook-laden and has an earworm-y guitar riff. It is the most accessible tune on the record but in the context of Strange Little Birds, it doesn't fit. 'Blackout' returns to the established melancholia. It displays the most overt Cure influence and the verses sound like a rewriting of that band's defining moment, 'A Forest'.

Garbage are famous for their kitchen-sink approach to music. Three of the band members are producers but they have said that Strange Little Birds was recorded in a spontaneous manner. 'If I Lost You' and 'Even Though Our Love Is Doomed' are minimal and the instrumentation on them is sparse. They are very different songs from the band. 'Magnetized' and 'So We Can Stay Alive' take the standard Garbage template and alter the tone. These are gothic, emotional tunes with big, dirty guitars and heavily processed beats paired with introspective sorrow.

As with The Cure's oeuvre, Strange Little Birds is probably not everyday listening unless you are depressed or going through a difficult breakup but, on such occasions, Strange Little Birds will be just the tonic. This is mood music. One for the long, dark nights of the soul. So draw the curtains, turn off the phone, light those black candles and listen to this while lounging in your eveningwear. Getting bummed has never been this glamorous.

Strange Little Birds is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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