Garbage bring their Strange Little Birds to The Fillmore Charlotte
Garbage recently released the 20th Anniversary edition of Garbage, their 1995 debut album, and it’s a perfect reminder that Garbage, while not as popular on radio as they once were, are still a very tight and talented group of musicians who continue to make interesting and relevant music as evidenced by their recent work. I’ve never seen them live before, but like I recently did with The Cure, I am about to remedy that as Garbage are playing The Fillmore Charlotte this Saturday July 23.
Like many of the bands that were breaking into the not-so-alternative music scene in 1995, I pretty much detested Garbage. It was too electronic, too overproduced, and definitely not grunge. Of course, one of grunge’s biggest producers, Butch Vig, was the driving force behind the band, but in a town where I couldn’t watch MTV, and didn’t have a subscription to Rolling Stone or SPIN or any other of the music publications of the day, I didn’t find this out until I heard it on local (also not-so) alternative radio. This piqued my interest, and once I finally did see a Garbage video and was able to put a face to Shirley Manson’s voice. Well, let’s just say that I warmed to the band.
By the later stages of 1995 I was starting to loosen up my rigid listening criteria, and soon Garbage would turn into one of my favorite bands. Strangely enough, it would be “#1 Crush” that would launch me into full on Garbage fandom, since it was one of their less guitar-rock-driven, but superior/heavy, tracks.
No doubt their setlist will be packed with a slew of their greatest hits like “Queer,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Special,” “Why Do You Love Me?” (I am especially anxious to see this track live), and many, many others. Most interesting though is the fact that they will have a host of new material to pull from since their last two brilliant albums—which might not have spawned the attention their first two did, but nevertheless reflect some of their best work to date. Not Your Kind of People (2012) and Strange Little Birds (2016) are two incredibly solid and varied albums that remain true to Garbage’s patent sound, but expand it in fulfilling ways that only a band that has been together this long can. The strong material, sense of wonderment ,and experimentation of these two albums is even more astounding; the band took what almost appeared to be on a permanent hiatus for about seven years before the release of Not Your Kind of People.
NYKP pushed the band’s sound into newer areas of rock and electronica with shoegaze-like tracks “Big Bright World” and, to a lesser extent, “Felt”–both of which are standout tracks that will be amazing played live (if we’re lucky enough to be treated to that). Shirley Manson’s voice has always been strong yet seductive, but on those two tracks it becomes almost heavenly.
The album also had its share of rockers as well though. “I Hate Love” is driven by a strong rhythmic beat, but also features some chunky lead guitar as well as electronica’s signature digitized-strings and beeps. It’s a consummate Garbage song. “Battle In Me” is a straight up rocker, much like the aforementioned “Why Do You Love Me?”
These releases reinvigorated the band, and showed the music world that they still had plenty to offer as far as interesting and genre-bending songs that take listeners on the type of rare sonic ride that only the best bands can. It also provided them with plenty new material to keep themselves interested, so to speak, while on tour between the playing of their greatest hits.
With Strange Little Birds, the band got a little darker in tone with tracks like “If I Lost You” dipping into a moody industrial sound as much as it addresses relationship insecurities. Album opener “Sometimes” starts the album off with some mournful strings that abruptly transition into an almost Filter Crazy Eyes like industrial sludge. (Filter being another ‘90s band going through an artistic renaissance this year as well). Lead single, “Empty,” is another guitar-heavy rocker that fits in the same category as “Why Do You Love Me?” and will get the crowd jumping at The Fillmore Charlotte this weekend.
Much of Strange Little Birds is packed with mid tempo rockers that eschew the shoegaze experimentation of Not Your Kind of People, as well as the electronica elements. “Blackout” is one of this tracks, and one of the album’s best. It will also be phenomenal live. “Even Though Our Love is Doomed” is an atmospheric masterpiece of the type that Garbage aren’t necessarily known for. The song showcases the experimental side of the band that really showed through on Not Your Kind of People cranked up to an almost overwhelming level that teeters near the edge, but never quite plunges over it.
“Magnetized” rescues the album from it’s dreamy and slightly foggy middle tracks by doing what Garbage do best: melding soaring guitar melodies with the kind of electronic effects that only seem to bolster the melodies. The following “We Never Tell” and “So We Can Stay Alive” continue the rock guitar and electronic atmospheric assault that show that Garbage is not slowing down or turning into an atmospheric background music band by any means.
Garbage have proved, with their last two releases, that they are a band with plenty left to say and plenty of groundbreaking music yet to make. Seeing them live is a must on my bucket list of bands to see, except that I’m sure that after I finally see them live, I’m going to be jonesing to see them again. Hopefully, another album (and tour) won’t be far behind Strange Little Birds.