When Garbage took an indefinite break in 2005, the prospects for a future reunion appeared slim. Factionalised, demoralised and at loggerheads with their record company, the band baled out halfway through their world tour promoting their Bleed Like Me album, citing terminal disenchantment.
Seven years on, the seemingly revitalised group have reconvened with a new studio album, Not Your Kind of People, which they accurately describe as their best album yet. Though it is no radical departure from their tried-and-trusted formula, it sees the band buff their guitar-driven, electronica-heavy angst anthems to an ever more brilliant sheen.
Their focus remains flame-haired Scottish singer Shirley Manson, who clearly has not spent their downtime mellowing. A perennially prickly ball of tension in pink leopard-skin shorts and vertiginous heels, she prowls the stage during familiar set openers Supervixen and Shut Your Mouthas if rapidly nearing the end of her tether.
It’s as well that Manson provides this infusion of edgy glamour, as her bandmates remain resolutely anonymous. Former Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery adds another layer of muso suss to the slick proficiency of guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, alongside drummer (and Nirvana producer) Butch Vig, but it’s Manson’s charisma that lifts attitudinal oldies Queer and Stupid Girl.
Despite the quality of the imminent new album, we’re an hour into a set of polished psychodramas such as Why Do You Love Me and I Would Die for You before we get a new song. A delicious throb of twitchy techno-rock, Blood for Poppies is written from the perspective of a stoned squaddie on patrol in Afghanistan, and is every inch as nervy and neurotic as that scenario suggests. By contrast, the glistening Man on a Wire is a heady rush of carpe diem positivity.
Manson is obviously delighted to be back, humbly thanking the fans for their long-standing support between barbed paeans to dysfunctional relationships such as Bad Boyfriend and the 1995 hit Only Happy When It Rains. Even these chippy classics pale next to the new track Automatic Systematic Habit, played as an encore, which finds the baleful vocalist dripping honeyed scorn over a would-be adulterous lover. It’s at moments like this that you realise how much Garbage have been missed, and just how good it is to have them back.
Ian Gittins, The Guardian