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Strange Little Birds
Strange Little Birds
Price: £7.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Little Birds, 10 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Strange Little Birds (Audio CD)
After four years away, Garbage return with their sixth studio album, “Strange Little Birds”. So far, this album has frequently been compared to the band’s 1995 self-titled debut. However, I’m not sure that this is a fair or accurate comparison; “Strange Little Birds” is a beast in its own right and holds its own amongst a strong back catalogue. Personally, I feel that this album has more in common with 1998’s “Version 2.0” and 2001’s “Beautiful Garbage” – the former because this is by far Garbage’s most electronically-driven effort since 2.0 and the latter simply for this album’s sense of adventure and experimentation. The band took a risk in covering new ground with “Beautiful Garbage” (which arguably paid off, depending on your viewpoint) and Garbage have done the same this time round – there are tracks on “Strange Little Birds” which come as a complete (and welcome) surprise and it’s refreshing that 21 years into their career, the band have not become complacent and are willing to toy with new ideas. Some reviews have suggested that this album is “more of the same” but, as a long-time Garbage fan, I cannot recall ever hearing a “Sometimes” or a “So We Can Stay Alive” in previous records. Granted, there are tracks on this album that are classic Garbage but there is plenty more to offer here.

The startling opener, “Sometimes”, sets the tone for the record you are about to listen to (and it really should be listened to as a whole). Unlike any Garbage song that has gone before it, “Sometimes” is a bit of a slap in the face with its sinister and crashing electronica, reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails and Portishead. Garbage have always been known for dark subject matter and the opening line, “Sometimes I’d rather take a beating”, assures the listener that this is one thing that hasn’t changed. It’s a brave opener for the album being sparse and minimal in production – a far cry from “Automatic Systematic Habit” or “Bad Boyfriend”. This track is a personal highlight for me and is by far one of the most experimental tracks on the record.

Lead-in single, “Empty” is classic Garbage – all rollicking guitars and verging nicely on the right side of ‘90s nostalgia. If you’re on the fence about buying the album, this is probably a good starting point although I would not say this song is indicative of the album’s overall sound. “If I Lost You” is the album’s first truly tender moment and bubbles nicely beneath the surface and never erupts - because it simply doesn’t need to. During this campaign, Shirley has regularly commented that she wanted to show vulnerability as a songwriter and it’s certainly evident in this track. I think Garbage excel when they embrace their electronic tendencies and this is one of Garbage’s most electronically-driven songs. The subtlety of this track is extremely effective and sits perfectly in the running order.

“Even Though Our Love Is Doomed” is the album’s centrepiece. Shirley has commented that this track is the “heartbeat” of “Strange Little Birds” and it’s not difficult to see why. Unusually, this track was penned by Butch Vig and presented to Shirley in nearly-completed form. The vocal heard here is the first take by Shirley and I think this really adds to the song’s fragility. When the song finally explodes towards the end (after nearly five minutes of threatening to do so), the result is spine-tingling and shows an almost industrial side to Garbage, reminiscent again of Nine Inch Nails - I feel as though this song could be a distant relative of “The Day The World Went Away” in its structure and atmosphere.

“Magnetized” and “We Never Tell” go hand-in-hand. Both are the poppiest tracks on the record and, for me at least, that is what Garbage have always been at their very core – a pop band. “Magnetized” is single potential and would not have sounded out of place on my personal favourite, “Version 2.0” – it’s just the right fusion of electronica and rock/pop which made that album so compelling. I would also add that the simple line of “I’m magnetized” is probably the catchiest moment on the entire album. There may be another distant relative present on this album in the form of “We Never Tell” – this time the relative in question being the band’s very own “Special”. If you’re familiar with that song, I probably don’t need to go into further detail as to why but it’s a great nod to the past (and not the only time to do so on this album). There’s also a rocking “wall of sound” on the chorus recalling the “Bleed Like Me” era to some degree. If we’re lucky enough to get a third single, this might be a wise option (assuming “Magnetized” is chosen).

Another personal highlight for me is “So We Can Stay Alive” – this is unlike anything Garbage have done before. The song structure is completely unpredictable, it bubbles with electronica and collides with rock and industrial. The buzzsaw, razor-sharp guitar riffs at the end of each line on the chorus are fantastic and just when you think the song is over, it comes back to slap you in the face with yet another dirty guitar riff.

“Teaching Little Fingers To Play” is another one of the album’s softer moments and similarly electronica-driven in the vein of “If I Lost You”. Garbage are no strangers to a good Bond theme and this song certainly has “The World Is Not Enough” vibes. It may not be intentional but I think there may be further nods to the past in this track. Whilst Shirley previously talked about growing up in (you guessed it) “When I Grow Up”, here she declares that she is “all grown up” as though she’s come full circle. The line, “there’s no one to fix me now”, may also be a reference to “Fix Me Now” from the debut album. Personally, this song also brings to mind “Use Me” (a b-side to “Cherry Lips” which is worthwhile looking up if you’re not familiar with).

Album closer “Amends” is a monstrous and menacing finale. This track is quite unlike previous closers “You Look So Fine”, “Happy Home” and “So Like A Rose” which had a beautiful, “float-away” kind of feel to them. Duke also provides backing vocals towards the end of the song which is nice to hear. “Amends” is possibly the most aggressive song on the album and is an epic and fitting end. It sounds like the end of the world which to some degree, encapsulates the heart and soul of this record. Garbage have rarely made “happy” music and that isn’t about to change (thankfully).

For the first time in their career, I feel as though Garbage have made an album that focuses more on mood and atmosphere. Where previous albums were more aggression, this one is more reflection. “Strange Little Birds” is certainly the band’s most sombre and downbeat offering which possibly makes it their least accessible record. Having said that, some of the best records need repeated listens. In some ways, it reminds me of Lana Del Rey’s previous album, “Honeymoon” where atmosphere was very much order of the day. Perhaps “Strange Little Birds” could be seen as Garbage’s approach if they were to tackle a Lana Del Rey record.

Throughout their career, Garbage releases have been hindered by relentless comparisons to their first two albums which are generally seen to be the “glory days”. It’s unfortunate because they have made some fantastic and underrated records since the second album which are often unfairly dismissed. Personally, I think “Strange Little Birds” is one of the band’s best outings and is a satisfyingly ambitious effort. Whilst some new ground is covered here, they still manage to capture that classic Garbage feel that only the band’s four members seem to be able to create. It’s not a lazy rehash of former glories as some reviews would have you believe. There are clearly moments that recall previous records but the album never sounds dated - the band have managed to create the perfect blend of old and new. This is the sound of Garbage in 2016 doing what they do best and doing it brilliantly.


American Doll Posse
American Doll Posse
Price: £4.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return To Form?, 16 Jun. 2007
This review is from: American Doll Posse (Audio CD)
Personally, I find "American Doll Posse" to be a vast improvement on "The Beekeeper" which I thought was dire. This is a much more diverse offering, still containing songs which are reminiscent of older, more popular material such as "Father's Son" and "Code Red". I love the concept and think Tori is great for still managing to come up with such great ideas.

However, something which has hindered the last few albums happens once again. This album is simply too long. 23 tracks is an exhausting listening, especially when there are at least 5 that could be cut. In my opinion there is just no need for "Roosterspur Bridge", "Digital Ghost", "Beauty Of Speed", "Almost Rosey" and "Dragon". Other than this though, this album is great and I find myself coming back to a lot more than some of the other albums.

I feel a bit sorry for Tori, everyone just seems to want "Little Earthquakes" mk.2 but what's the point in that? She's moved on. Obviously this is no "From The Choirgirl Hotel" or "To Venus And Back" but it's certainly a step in the right direction and contains some of Tori's best material in my opinion: "Big Wheel", "Teenage Hustling", "Body And Soul", "Smokey Joe", "You Can Bring Your Dog" - all amazing. Also love the short songs, "Fat Slut", "Programmable Soda" etc.

Anyone who was put off for life with the abysmal "The Beekeeper", you should really try this. Although the packaging and booklet is lovely for this special edition, the DVD is rubbish. Unless you're a Tori collector, you may as well get the regular edition.

Overall, another brilliant Tori album, only slightly (very slightly) let down by the length. Recommend it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2012 7:17 PM GMT


Bleed Like Me
Bleed Like Me
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £5.29

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garbage Are Back, 24 April 2005
This review is from: Bleed Like Me (Audio CD)
Garbage return with their long-awaited fourth studio album, "Bleed Like Me", the follow up to 2001's "Beautiful Garbage", which, despite earning a wealth of critical acclaim, left a lot of fans cold, and hoping for more of what "Garbage" and "Version 2.0" had to offer. This new offering is something different (as ever with a Garbage album). "Bleed Like Me" focuses on crunching guitars and heavy basslines, with the superb "Metal Heart" and "Boys Wanna Fight" being the only tracks that feature the twisted, textured electronics that enhanced 1998's "Version 2.0".
"Bad Boyfriend" is the menacing opener and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Grinding guitars set around "one of the simplest tunes they've ever done"; as Duke puts it, work well with Shirley's direct lyrics and dirty vocals, reminiscent of the band's 1995 debut. The manic drumming in the middle of the song comes courtesy of Dave Grohl, as everybody knows. A fantastic song and a brilliant, refreshing opener.
"Run Baby Run" starts as a sweet pop song, but turns in to a jilty rocker on the chorus, and takes an unexpected twist at the end, where the track becomes quite jittery. I love the lyrics in the chorus, and this is a possible contender for a single.
"Right Between The Eyes" is apparently about Courtney Love. I love the lyrics in this track especially. Shirley has never cared what anybody thinks, and it shows in the fantastic lyrical content. There is not much of a chorus to the song, but my favourite part is where Shirley sings "there's nothing grander than the big surprise", which, as many have pointed out, is reminiscent of Hole's "Malibu".
"Why Do You Love Me" is by far the rockiest track on the album, closely followed by the grimacing "Bad Boyfriend". It's probably one of the most commercial tracks on the album, along with next single "Sex Is Not The Enemy". The metal-guitar riff still sounds great, and the song is probably the most infectious on the album.
"Bleed Like Me" is the beautiful title track, and is about empathy as Shirley says. Each character has their own scenario, and Shirley's vocals towards the end ("you should see my scars") are some of the best I have ever heard. This is most definitely a highlight. It's mid-tempo, but is one of the most amazing tracks Garbage have ever produced.
"Metal Heart" is currently my favourite on the album. It's quite reminiscent of 1998's "Version 2.0" as the swirling electronics help introduce the song. Just when the song sounds like the poppiest thing here, the razor-sharp, industrial guitars kick in for a blistering guitar ride. I love the cold lyrics. This is Garbage at their best, and could possibly make a single at some point.
"Sex Is Not The Enemy" is already an anthem amongst the Garbage community, with a simple chorus of "a revolution... is the solution". Instrumentally fun, lyrically about Shirley's "sexual politics". This is set to be the second single from the album, and there are also rumours of it being used as the official iPod theme. A great track.
"It's All Over But The Crying" strongly reminds me of "You Look So Fine". The piano riff sounds very similar. I'm not usually in to ballads, but this is a highlight, and could also become a single. Shirley sounds so passionate, yet fed up with everything on the chorus. A lovely piece of drama to help break up the album.
"Boys Wanna Fight" - I really wasn't sure about this song at first, but like the whole album, it's a grower. The combination of the electronics and powerful guitars are similar to that formula that worked so well on "Version 2.0". The band say this is the most political song on the album. Not one of the best, but still a good song.
"Why Don't You Come Over" is generally the track that nobody has taken too. Possibly because of the slightly throwaway chorus of merely "why don't you come over?". I also wasn't sure at first, but this is one of my favourites now. Includes Garbage's trademark angry undertone, complete with bitter lyrics. The chorus is very infectious, and very up-tempo.
"Happy Home" is the perfect closer - cinematic Garbage. The song is about "acceptance" to some degree. The lyrics are wonderful and the song has great meaning. The instrumental chorus accompanied by Shirley's faint backing vocals work perfectly. The song twists at the end with a stunning guitar rising, and hypnotising strings that could only be used to end such a great album.
All in all, a fantastic album from a band who continues to produce quality, distinctive records after 10 years together. Give this album time, it's not Garbage's most accessible work, but it gets better with each listen - a real grower. Personally, I feel this is a vast improvement on "Beautiful Garbage". There is a handful of potential singles including "Run Baby Run" and "It's All Over But The Crying". The band's twisted, individual lyrics remain, and Shirley's vocals are better than ever. They've cranked up the guitars for album number four, but Garbage can still make it work. The best album of 2005.


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