sat 18/05/2024

Album: Garbage - No Gods No Masters | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Garbage - No Gods No Masters

Album: Garbage - No Gods No Masters

Shirley Manson-fronted rockers sound as vital as ever

At no point in their near-30-year career have “shy” or “retiring” been adjectives you could apply to Garbage - and yet, on this their seventh record, the Scottish-American rockers go to places that they never have before.

With songs taking on capitalism, climate change, misogyny, racism and police brutality, No Gods No Masters is a no holds barred, politically charged firecracker of a record - one which is as brutal, messy and vulnerable as the human condition.

Despite its songs pre-dating the pandemic - the band’s last day of recording together was in March 2020, before the world went into lockdown - it’s an album that rings particularly true after a year of global turmoil, grief and introspection. For singer Shirley Manson, numerology has a part to play: the biblically significant number seven, denoting virtues, sorrows and deadly sins, informed its content. Just as significant, I would argue, is the band’s personnel - an unchanging core lineup of Manson, drummer Butch Vig and guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker which has over three decades developed a trust and camaraderie that supports musical experimentation and vulnerability. It may not always work, but it has never been boring.

Strident album opener “The Men Who Rule the World” is as explicitly political as the band has ever been, Manson plotting to save the best of an earth ravaged by climate change on some kind of dystopian Noah’s Ark, half-whispering the song’s “money money money” refrain like a curse over slot machines mangled into percussion. The soaring, epic title track channels action, not thoughts and prayers, into positive change; while in between the elegiac “Waiting For God” - with its clumsily well-meaning lyrics inspired by the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, but which could just have easily been written this week about Dea-John Reid - channels the most powerful social movement of our times.

The album is even more powerful when Manson turns the lyrical lens on herself: musically, the first-half pairing of “The Creeps” and “Uncomfortably Me” couldn’t be more different, but each displays a striking vulnerability. “I saw them selling me out right there on Los Feliz Boulevard”, she sings on the former, a skittering, industrial rock song, and you smile at the metaphor - until you read about the time she was driving through Los Angeles after the band was dropped by Interscope and spotted a life-size poster of herself being sold at a garage sale from the car window. The latter is even more direct, both musically and lyrically, a slowed-down confessional it’s difficult to imagine comes from the same pen as the stage whisper sordid “Godhead” or breathily forgettable “Anonymous XXX”. But that’s Garbage - and, indeed, humanity - for you. They contain multitudes.

Below: hear Garbage's "The Men Who Rule The World"

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