Album of the Week: Garbage, 'Strange Little Birds'


Garbage, 'Strange Little Birds'
Garbage, 'Strange Little Birds' (Stunvolume)

Just over 20 years ago, in 1995, the debut, self-titled Garbage record was released to critical acclaim. It had a pile of hits like "Stupid Girl," "Only Happy when it Rains," "Supervixen," and so on. I spent a lot of time with that album, because at the time, I was a scared, insecure, angry teenager; Shirley Manson's voice — and her look — spoke to me in a big way.

Now in my mid-30's, I feel far removed from those lonely, confused, unlucky-in-love teen years. After spending some time with the brand-new Garbage album, Strange Little Birds, I found myself thrown back to the mid-90s when the first Garbage record came out, because it has a similar tone and subject matter. I started thinking, "Maybe I'm not so far removed from all those old feelings that I've just pushed down into the deep pit of my gut so I could get on with my adult life." The lyrical content and musical arrangements on this record unlocked a lot of the old baggage of being young, naïve and unsure who I was and where I was headed. Good times, right?

The album opens with the very moody, creepy-sounding track, "Sometimes." It really sets the tone for what feelings you're in for when listening to this album in its entirety. As the music was starting, I felt like I just opened the lock to Shirley Manson's diary and started reading a very personal secret about every boy she's ever liked and every emotion and insecurity attached to it.

The second track, "Empty" — the first song we've been playing on air from Strange Little Birds — is also the highlight of the record for me; at least as a song that can really stand on its own outside the entire album.

Inner thoughts, pain, secrets, desires, the lies we tell, all that represents who we are on the inside and too afraid to share with others — the exact feelings I felt HARD as a teenager — are writ large throughout this album. The track "Blackout" is so relatable as far the lengths we go to hide our true feelings and put up a front. Shirley Manson sings, "Get out your head, try to not to think / Be cool, be calm, be fake. / Dumb yourself down, numb yourself out / Fake it till you make it, make the world black out." Um, yes.

I recommend listening to Strange Little Birds start to finish: The eeriness of the opening, and the emotional rollercoaster that follows throughout the majority of the record, will eventually resolve into what feels like an emotional ability to move forward. Get ready to dig up some old feels and feel them!

Butch Vig, one of the best producers of his generation, has kept the band Garbage intact after all this time, which is an impressive feat. I can't think of too many '90s alternative bands that, 20 years later, still feature the same lineup. Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker continue to create together and to deliver to their fans, and in this case, the new album Strange Little Birds does exactly that.

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