*Sigh*. I remember it like it was yesterday. A student journo reviewing Garbage‘s debut album, a band who were attracting our attention for the not insignificant reason that their drummer had produced Nirvana‘s world-changing Nevermind album.
Ten years on and 10 million album sales later, and the fact that Butch Vig is a member of Garbage has been buried beneath the cult of personality of frontwoman Shirley Manson. Not that their music ever bore much resemblance to that of Kurt Cobain & co anyway, something that was especially true of their last, overly anodyne album. Beautiful Garbage? More like Pretty Rubbish…
Thankfully, Bleed Like Me sees Garbage consigning most of the watered-down, limp-wristed stuff to the dustbin and emerging instead with a set of upbeat, in yer face, rockin’ pop songs. Okay, so they’re open to accusations of not exactly progressing since 1995 but it seems that, despite all their nearly internecine squabbling since Beautiful Garbage was released, they’ve finally realised what they’re good at and are making a go of doing it even better than before.
Perhaps the best way to compliment Bleed Like Me is to say that almost any of the tracks would be viable as a single. The current one, Why Do You Love Me, is probably the heaviest thing here but there’s still plenty of fizz in the horn-filled, sleaze-rock of Bad Boyfriend, the simple but effective Run Baby Run and the controlled anger of Boys Wanna Fight.
Elsewhere, Garbage mix things up – quite literally in some cases, with liberal splashes of samples and electronic effects – with laudable versatility. The title track is a knowing don of the cap in the direction of Lou Reed‘s Walk On The Wild Side, the piano-led It’s All Over But The Crying has a definite Beatles vibe, while the chorus of Why Don’t You Come Over brings to mind Talking Heads in one of their inspired (rather than annoying) moments.
Lyrically, there’s plenty of interest too, not least because we hear Shirley Manson unashamedly expressing the various facets of her “feisty” (cliché alert) personality. And so there’s the sauce (“I’ve got a fever / Come check it and see / There’s something burning and rolling in me”), the vulnerability (“I think you’re sleeping with a friend of mine… Why do you love me?”) and the male-bashing bile (“Let’s get loaded (oh let’s be selfish) / Let’s get wasted (and lose our senses)”).
There’s even a bit of misplaced paranoia about society’s view of sleeping around in Sex Is Not The Enemy (“I won’t feel guilty no matter what they’re telling me / I won’t feel dirty and buy into their misery”). The musical, quasi-grunge backing is catchy, mind. But then so is chlamydia…
All in all, Bleed Like Me is a winning return to form for the three men and a little lady. It cranks up the volume when it needs to, holds back when it’s prudent to do so and, most importantly, consists of consistently listenable songs. It’s hardly revolutionary but, as we all know, there’s nothing wrong with recycled Garbage now, is there?