Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Album & Concert Review: Garbage - Bleed Like Me

I love Shirley Manson. No, really I do. Ask any of my friends - they'll tell you. I'm about one psychological trauma away from wiping out this entire website, setting up a shrine under "shirleyiloveyou.com", and becoming a stalker. It's really kind of pathetic, actually. So when it was announced that Garbage, the band for which she is the frontwoman, would be coming to Boston to promote their rather morbidly titled fourth album Bleed Like Me, I got online at exactly 9:00 AM on the day tickets went on sale and had about 276 different windows open - all trying to procure the coveted passes. As it turns out, I only needed one and upon placement of the order, I did a little jig in my living room. OK - so that last part's not true but I needed some way of conveying my excitement other than simply saying, "I was really excited."

Garbage - so named during the recording sessions of their first album when a friend took one listen at what had been done so far and kept saying, "This sounds like garbage" - are a quartet consisting of the aforementioned Ms. Manson, a 38-year old Scottish goddess on lead vocals, and a bunch of 40 and 50-something professional studio geeks from Madison, WI, who 12 years ago decided to stop producing records for other bands (among them, Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and the Smashing Pumpkins 'Siamese Dream'), and start making some of their own. It is not exactly an easy process for them. In the 12 years the band has been in existence they've put out only four albums, all of them solid, but some clearly better than others. Following the release of their third album Beautifulgarbage, the band almost called it quits due to exhaustion, poor record sales (the album was waayyy too overproduced, and had too many bells and whistles accompanying songs that lacked decent melodies), and general creative differences (I'm never sure what this means but I think it's one of the most overused and irritating phrases in the music industry.) Thankfully after a brief hiatus, they decided to grit their teeth, have one large bitch session, make amends, and start working on a fourth record. Bleed Like Me is the end result.

The word on this album before it was released was that, unlike its forbears, this was going to be less of a slick studio production, and more of a raw, edgy sounding guitar-driven piece of work. I'd say that's only half right. The slick, studio production is definitely still there... they just turned the guitars way, way up. What many fans (myself included) were desperately hoping for was some sort of similarity to the 'old' Garbage, i.e. angry, mysterious, mongrel-pop (and make no mistake - this music is most certainly pop), yet at the same time vulnerable, thoughtful and very very catchy. Mission accomplished. The album sounds like a primer of alt-pop from the last 10 years (and some critics say too much like their first two albums, and therefore redundant.) Some highlights include:

  • Right Between The Eyes - A bouncy catchy tune that sounds very Courtney Love-esque, yet with nasty lyrics that basically tell all their critics to f*** off.
  • Bleed Like Me - The title track (and their next single) - a slow melodic piece where each verse describes a different person and their preferred method of self-destruction (anorexia, cutting, alcoholism, etc...)
  • Metal Heart - MP3 provided - see below.
  • Sex Is Not The Enemy - A ridiculous, completely unoriginal, yet incredibly catchy manifesto deriding a society which is too uptight about sexuality.
It's a great album, and that's about all there is to it. Is it their best? Nope. Are there some clunkers? Absolutely, but only a few. Personally, of the 11 total tracks on the record I could do without the last three, but they're not terrible - they're just blah. Still a worthwhile purchase and a solid B+. Buy it here or on iTunes.

Now - about that concert. Sunday marked the fateful event, and Boston was only the 5th stop on the tour so it was safe to say they were a little rough around the edges. The guitars were a little bit sloppy, the drums occasionally missed a beat, and an occasional lyric was screwed up, but surprisingly none of it mattered, because goddamn, this was a
SHOW. I've seen them perform three times previous and I've never seen them this excited, enthusiastic and grateful (they kept thanking the crowd as the reason they stayed together.) The two guitarists jumped all over the stage and played with the enthusiasm of high-schoolers. Butch Vig pounded away on the drums so violently I thought his arms were going to come flying off. Even bassist Erik Avery (on loan from Jane's Addiction for the tour) managed to fit in seamlessly. And towering over all of it was Shirley Manson (actual photo from the concert), prowling around on stage, playing the audience like a violin, and making sure all eyes were (gladly) on her. At one point during a break she crouched down to some lucky-ass gentleman in the front row and said in her wonderful Scottish lilt, "What the hell is going on down there? Are you being naughty? Well.... I hate to break it to you..... but tonight..... is all about me." Indeed it was, and the rest of us were only too willing to fall victim to her spell.

  • Metal Heart - Without question, the hardest track on the new album and the one that is sure to make all fervent Garbage fans delight in their return to form. Oddly enough, it was one of the weak points of the live show but whatever... kick-ass, hard-driving tune that starts off slow, when all of a sudden they let you have it.
  • Bonus Track: Thirteen - And just to slow it down exponentially, here is their cover of Big Star's Thirteen (I'm assuming the number refers to the age.) This isn't on the new album at all. It originally appeared as a B-side on the "Push It" single from their second album 'Version 2.0' A slow, teenage love song they kept true to the original and did a good job with. Enjoy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shirley Manson completely rocks, she's amazing. But pop? I don't think so.

I'm very envious, you got to see Garbage in concert?!!? That's amazing. Go you.

9:24 AM  

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