No Gods No Masters
3 out of 5 stars
Shirley Manson is livid. And you don’t even need to hear the music and words on Garbage’s first album in five years (and seventh overall) to know it.
Just check out song titles like “The Men Who Rule the World,” “The Creeps,” “A Woman Destroyed,” “This City Will Kill You” and the defiant “Flipping the Bird” to get an idea of where she and the band stands. While not every track is full of vitriol, the overall vibe of this collection is pent up anger.
When the first utterances on the opening track are The men who rule the world/Have made a f**king mess, it’s clear which direction this is going. And that’s just the start of a litany of social, governmental, environmental and personal issues Manson rails about on these eleven crackling tracks. The venom she spits out makes even the often prickly Chrissie Hynde, whose voice Manson’s often sounds eerily similar to, seem like the Dalai Lama in comparison. Manson also looks inside and doesn’t mince words examining her own issues singing on “Wolves,” I was judgmental/Played too cool/I was not so nice. The song seems as much psychotherapy as a reflection on her part in a relationship gone sour. There is a “Me Too” aspect as well on “Godhead” where she whispers threateningly, If I had a dick/Would you know it/If I had a dick would you blow it.
Musically little has changed since Garbage’s 1995 debut. Chilly, thumping electronic beats underpin terse, choppy guitars, dark keyboards and chest rattling bass as Manson sings alternately tough and tender over the pulsating groove. It’s all appropriately pumped up and polished to an ominous sheen by founder/drummer Butch Vig, who at this stage could craft this once edgy, now somewhat retro sound, in his sleep. Existing fans should be satisfied that Garbage falls comfortably into its established groove.
The music is familiar yet many of these tunes aren’t noteworthy as you navigate the frothy attitude both in the playing and Manson’s feisty, pissed off approach. In general, the hooks don’t stick, so after the final track with the cheery lyrics of You’ve got to wake up/And figure things out/You’re getting too old/They’ll walk over your bones when you’re cold fades, it’s a challenge to remember the melodies you just heard.
The heightened level of fury and overall frustration about the state of society is admirable. Some might say there is not enough of it in today’s music. But that needs to be balanced with songs which beckon you back for another listen, an aspect of the confrontational No Gods No Monsters that too often falls short.
(A deluxe version adds eight more tracks nearly doubling the time with 42 additional minutes. It includes more originals along with credible covers of “Because the Night” and Bowie’s “Starman.”)