Review: Garbage – ‘Not Your Kind Of People’

Though I really do adore Garbage, it seems that all the lamented web hype over anticipation of the release of their fifth studio record, Not Your Kind Of People, might be a little too much about the return of Garbage and not necessarily the content of the record. I do understand the die-hard-fandom, trust me. But a couple of spins of my pre-release copy of the LP leaves me satisfied and happy for the band’s accomplishment, but not running to the streets with it held above my head.

This record is laden with Garbage-tactics, even when they’re buried. The opening track, “Automatic Systematic Habit,” brings back that fast-paced beat – Nineties-eque, really, but Garbage-esque more than that – true to form with laces of alternating staccato kick and snare and electro-hats that tinkle and stereo echo around beats. For reference, Version 2.0 was swarming with variations of this. It’s a true Garbage sound, even the way the song goes from a would-be dark kick off and through a dangerous sounding verse only to fall into a lighter, uber major chorus. Overall though, this is a bad opening track. It reminds us of a decade past band that we’re already familiar with; we need the new.

It is an audible fact that some plunges outside comfort zones were made with the foursome this time. The title track, “Not Your Kind Of People,” is a wonderfully fresh tune that boasts some really modern soundscape play, and neo-classic-rock progressions, guitar work and organs. Additionally, the vocal layering and way tone textures pair to those parts are goose-bump worthy. It’s Shirley Manson the forceful in a more emotional – but not too vulnerable – way.

“Felt” is a tune that drags me straight to the Pixies. In fact, there’d be no love for those big (again) Ninties-esque guitars if they didn’t take straight, single note tangents and if the song didn’t harbor those stringy, layered, floating vocals. Plus, on “Felt,” Garbage brings their own, tweaked out version of the ‘kick, snare, kick, kick, snare’ beat, and it works well.

Lots of talk about drums, I know, but focus should be drawn. Really, when we strip away the vocal effects and some new ways of using her voice as an instrument this time, Manson is a super consistent element and staple. And Garbage is known for rolling to different guitar tones for different songs, so those new ideas, though fresh, aren’t pushing the envelope enough to declare this record something amazingly different and award-worthy. However, the band’s implementation of new beat ideas – concepts used in conjunction with all the instrumentation, not just percussion – will make this record stand away from the others.

Another thing that will make this record stand alone are more noticeable, unique tones in the synth and electronic departments. Classically (think “Paranoid” or “Stupid Girl” or even tidbits from Bleed Like Me) Garbage has used synths and straight monophonic sounding electronic elements as textures to beef up and enhance basic, hooky patterns. But some warm poly tones shine through on “Beloved Freak” and “Big Bright World.”

It’s significant for me that Butch Vig (Garbage drummer) produced Not Your Kind Of People. I’m not sure if he had to win a Grammy [he did, for his work with Green Day a couple of years ago] to convince his bandmates to let him do it, but it was a nice choice. To me, there’s a less huge studio sound to the record, compared to the others, not compared to really independently produced records, by any means. But this quality does lend a lot of character to the record – in various senses – coupled with the fact that it’s the first time Garbage has self-released an LP.

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