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Garbage – No Gods No Masters Review

Master of her craft.

Sounds like…

High energy rock anthems for internal and external riots.

The review

It is highly unusual to find a band seven albums in producing their most aggressive and cinematic rock to date. Garbage have done just this with their explosive new album ‘No Gods No Masters’. Lyrically pointed and political, audibly power punchy and full of anger, this is some of their finest work to date.

It may be obvious but Garbage knows its sound and sticks with it. Their fusion of power chords, dance synths and big vocal and guitar hooks continues to create anthem after anthem. Shirley Manson is able to flip from vulnerable to crazed banshee on the flip of a switch and so can the music too. This is especially true with this album that plays around with volume more so than their previous work. Many tracks have audible booms, supported by synths and kick drums alongside guitar surges. Everything feels loud and this album, in particular, has a grungy muddiness to it that I particularly enjoyed.

Garbage ensure that they stay cinematic and ominous throughout. Whether it is lyrically with the power poses of ‘The Men Who Rule The World’ or with creepy horror synths with ‘A Woman Destroyed’, everything feels dangerous. Elsewhere giant guitar riffs send ‘Godhead’, ‘The Creeps’ and ‘Flipping the Bird’ into the stratosphere as future fan favourites. The latter of that trio is a radio hit in waiting as it calls back to early Garbage in a way nothing else on the album does.

photo of Garbage

Shirley is unimpressed with men though, that much is clear. ‘Godhead’ sees her slyly whisper ‘Would you deceive me if I had a dick? Would you know it? Would you blow it?’ In fact, many songs highlight male social dominance and injustices, #MeToo is referenced alongside race and gender issues. Each time it packs a punch and is usually placed alongside a volume switch too, highlighting the issue or smashing the message home. Mental health also crops up as a repeated theme, best showcased in the magnificent ‘Uncomfortably Me’. It is a jangly synth-rock mid-tempo piece that perfectly displays Garbage’s talent for a quirky slower number. The title track is also an excellent example of an ‘Absolute Garbage’ era piece, bringing synth-pop rock into focus. The album ends with the smokey and dense ‘This City Will Kill You’. The piece is more James Bond than their actual Bond track but even here, things feel dangerous and taut.

The deluxe edition is a two-disc affair with eight additional tracks. It kicks off with the standalone single ‘No Horses’ which came out 4 years ago and yet feels perfectly at home here. It feels like a great bridge track between ‘Strange Little Birds’ and ‘No Gods No Masters’. You can hear bits of the change towards bigger statements already. Then we get a lovely cover of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ alongside another cover Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Because the Night’. This is performed alongside Screaming Females and it’s an absolute riot. ‘Girls Talk’ is like an early Garbage b-side (we need a release of all of them Shirley) and is a collaboration with Brody Dalle. It is full of would-be techno beats – minus the kickdrum – crawling guitars and gravelly vocals. ‘On Fire’ is an ethereal pulsating synth ballad with Shirley playing her sassy and sad vocoder best. ‘The Chemicals’ with Brian Aubert (Silversun Pickups) plays with b-movie minor chords in a dance-rock way. ‘Destroying Angels’ with John Doe and Exene Cervenka channels Nick Drake and Americana in a way Garbage has never done before. The bonus disc ends with the most techno-rock piece on the album with ‘Time Will Destroy Everything’. It feels like a b-side from this album as it’s as aggressive and kickdrum punchy as the opener. Frankly – if you can – get the deluxe edition – you won’t be upset.

I didn’t think I’d be having deep thoughts and drawing personal conclusions from a Garbage album quite like this. ‘No Gods No Masters’ is a war cry to rise up and start taking note of the world around us now. It’s crammed full of energy, big meaty hooks and has been audibly mastered to be loud and aggressive. What a way to emerge from a cocoon. Shirley Manson says bring it bitches. I’m fully on board.

Recommended track: Wolves

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Garbage - No Gods No Masters



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