Music Reviews
Not Your Kind of People

Garbage Not Your Kind of People

(STUNVOLUME) Rating - 5/10

Remember the 90s? Remember the Sega v. Nintendo console war, Hal Hartley movies and when The Simpsons was still the most flawless, peerless show on TV? Remember Garbage's self-titled debut album and the "It's by the guy who produced Nevermind" chatter that surrounded it?

No doubt that description garnered the fledgling act a fair amount of interest (and record sales), but it was, in fact, rather a case of an album being mis-sold. Despite the bigging up of the grunge links, Garbage were essentially a pop band, just with a dash of rugged guitar and a twist of bubble-gum spikiness, and were all the better for it. Coming right at the point where lumberjack chic was starting to be swapped for sportswear stylings, Shirley Manson's flame-haired temptress image was genuinely quite unique, and Queer, while not exactly playing up to the more radical definition of the term, proved a welcome respite from the unfortunate rise of "laddism".

Their comeback Not Your Kind of People is once again somewhat mis-sold. For a start seven years away really isn't that big of a deal for a group who, without fail, took three-to-four year gaps between albums. Secondly, in interviews Manson has been attempting to frame Garbage's return as vital in the current music-market, bemoaning a lack of girls with attitude. This however, is entirely at odds with the reality that 2011 was almost entirely dominated, both commercially and critically, by women.

This unwillingness to engage with today's music scene is very much held up in the contents of Not Your Kind of People, and it ain't necessarily a bad thing; such glossy, buzz-saw pop has been rarely spotted in recent years, and while opener Automatic Systematic Habit might only be a couple of adjectives short of being an Alanis Morissette track, it is a fun little burst of woman-scorned drama in the vein of (albeit not as good as) their debut's opener Supervixen. Also, while it seems that every artist going is currently clamouring to get the right a la mode wobbly bits into their tracks, Garbage are still very much tied to Butch Vig's all-middle, no-bass production (something that was very much debated around the Nevermind re-release last year, and which serves as a reminder of just how superfluous bass players were in the 90s - perhaps best exemplified by the Alex James pluck at the same note a bit while trying to look cool career model).

Contradictorily, this is Not Your Kind of People's biggest problem too. For all the interesting noises that the band have come up with in the studio, the production really doesn't do them any favours, cramming them into a fairly narrow space and stripping them almost entirely of any sense of atmosphere. And while Garbage were clearly having a misereable time during the recording of their last album, Bleed Like Me, which in turn resulted in increased listener apathy, at least that misery resulted in something a bit different - the band may have always been a bunch of miseryguts, keen to point out that they were "only happy when it's complicated", but they'd never sounded quite so outright pissed off as they did there, and they don't here either. Instead what we get are eleven fairly consistent, sturdy tracks, but which can only offer up either carefully plotted retreads of where they've been before (after Milk, Sugar sees them continue in their occasional series of trip-hop ballads inspired by staple foodstuffs, it's also probably the best track here), or innovations so slight that they're hardly noticeable (the attempt at an anti-war song on Blood for Poppies, is actually considerably less embarrassing than anticipated, thanks to it being presented as a bit of a wishy-washy character study, and, to be more enthusiastic, to it having a very good hook for a chorus). Beloved Freak is perhaps, in its own modest way, the closest they get to a leap forward; despite featuring the most blatant attempt at going over old ground (although the chorus of Big Bright World is so similar to The Cure's Boys Don't Cry that it surely can't be an accident) by interpolating the gospel standard This Little Light of Mine (much like they previously did with The Beach Boys' Don't Worry Baby) and combining it with some admirably subtle choir effects to create something a little woozy, gentle and fairly mature. Although whether those are selling points for a pop-rock record is another matter entirely.

All griping aside, it's all enjoyable, and will probably go down better than their last two releases (other than that production, which renders every buzzing guitar about as powerful as a wasp rattling around inside a tin-can), but ultimately it's like any rekindling of an old relationship; it may feel comfortable, familiar, even fun now, but it'll only be a matter of time before every bad habit that you fell out over in the first place becomes impossible to ignore again.