Garbage in, Garbage out: In the late 1990s, plenty of bands aspired to master that mix of self-assured vocals and self-loathing lyrics, dense guitars and stomach-clenching silences. But pretenders fell short, lacking Shirley Manson’s brittle sexuality and an approach to pop-industrial sampling that could only have come from gang of guys who valued production above jamming.
By the early 2000s, that sound had fallen out of favor. Garbage dropped out of sight for a while, larding compilations with just enough new music to keep the diehards happy. The same folks should find much to like on Not Your Kind of People (Stunvolume), the band’s first album in seven years. Because they’re doing what they’ve always done, Manson and co.’s brand of glam-gritty swagger is out of step with the times. But at least they haven’t lost their secret recipe. “Automatic Systematic Habit” scrapes and pulses with a seductive rancor, “Control” finds succor in distortion, and “I Hate Love” hits that old sweet spot with a sugarcoated sucker punch.
If it’s not quite a knockout, that’s because Not Your Kind of People is a solid effort, while Garbage is something special. The hands behind the 1995 debut were all professional: Drummer Butch Vig and multi-instrumentalists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker had been pals since the late ’70s, sharing bands and a studio in Madison, Wis., long before they found their future singer on MTV. Though Manson had logged time in Angelfish and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie back in her native Scotland, initially the band’s biggest name was Vig, who’d produced Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins.
All that experience paid off; the icy-hot atmospherics are the perfect setting for Manson’s seething-cool sentiments. “I’m riding high upon a deep depression,” she sings on “Only Happy When It Rains,” speaking for millions of listeners. Garbage peaked at 20 on the Billboard charts, but every song feels like a hit. “Queer” baits with trip-hop pacing, “Supervixen” turns silences into hooks, and “Vow” bridges electric bombast and acoustic soul-searching. Few bands actually pulled off that combination in the ’90s, and even fewer can today. Bless Garbage for still trying.