For a generation of Angry Young Women who missed out on Riot Grrrl by a few years, who only knew Courtney Love in Larry Flint mode and who devoured the pull out posters in Select, Shirley Manson was God. Spitting out lyrics like “I can’t use what I can’t abuse”, confessing to some…unusual kinky sex acts and professing to be a lifelong Ugly Duckling, Manson was the ultimate outsider with lots to say and a dirty cackle to boot. Oh and she happened to front one of the most memorable alternative rock* bands of the 90s (*before alt rock lost all meaning).
As the outcry about the rumoured Smiths reunion displayed, reunions are just never a good idea. Even with a hologram thrown in. Lucky for us, Garbage didn’t exactly break up, they just kinda stepped quietly away from the all-powerful, all-controlling music industry limelight. Now they’re back with an album which aims to be less tepid than what was deemed their swansong, Bleed Like Me, and give us more of the grab-you-by-the-balls, smack you in the face Garbageisms of the first two records. Insert rock journo cliché about a return to form here, please.
With lyrics like “I think you’re sleeping with a friend of mine/I have no proof/But I think that I’m right” Bleed Like Me was the sound of a human being, and a band, unravelling. Not Your Kind of People, on the other hand, is the sound of a band in control. This is Garbage’s first stab at releasing a record on their own imprint, StunVolume, and doing it their own way and that little fact makes all the difference.
Not long into the record, Manson sings “I wanna be your dirty little secret” and everything feels back on track, with the hiatus of the last seven years zapping away like a Sunset Beach-esque bad dream. Sure, it’s no “you learn to love the pain you feel/ like father, like son” but what is? ‘Automatic Systematic Habit’ could be a Version 2.0 reject and ‘Big Bright World’ smacks of atypical Garbage Attitude (trademark pending). Meanwhile, the romantically challenged ‘I Hate Love’ kicks off with a whispering Manson, reminiscent of PJ Harvey’s “big fish little fish” in ‘Down By The Water’. If anything, this record serves as a reminder of how ahead of their time Garbage were but also how in danger they are of being glued to a certain period. Not Your Kind of People isn’t exactly a leap forward for the band but it is far from a backward step into oblivion either. It’s a Garbage album, through and through.
As if the title wasn’t ‘Us vs Them’ enough, tracks like ‘Battle In Me’ and ‘Beloved Freak’ wear Garbage’s eternal position as underdogs on their sleeves and, with that, the aforementioned generation of Angry Young Women (and men) morph back to their 16 year old selves and sigh a sigh of relief. Welcome back Shirl and the gang, we’ve missed you.