Establishing themselves as torchbearers for their unique, sonic ambition, the shape-shifting, alternative-rock quartet Garbage have crafted music across over 25 years and counting, and on their jarring-yet-expansive, new album No Gods No Masters, which is available on June 11 via Stunvolume and Infectious Music, they once more sound vivaciously fresh.
As before, Garbage intertwine pulsating synths with driving, punk-rock riffing and a uniting layer of relatively bombastic energy across their new album, which features lively rhythms that simultaneously suggest an invigorating, live-concert experience and a moment of freeing emotional exorcism—although those moments could, of course, be one in the same, especially as safe touring continues to slowly restart.
On a foundational level, the new album is intense, sometimes seeming to contort under the weight of emotional turmoil, but it often rushes ahead, as though musically capturing a sudden surge of electrifying resolve.
Sometimes—like on the bracingly (and understandably) despondent-sounding “Waiting for God” and album closer “This City Will Kill You”—the instrumentation gets comparatively quieter, easing into slowly billowing, synth-driven atmosphere, but even then, there’s a sense that the stillness is deceptive.
As singer Shirley Manson hazily sings, “Waiting for God to show up/ we’re keeping our fingers crossed” on the track named in her lines, there’s what seems like an unspoken but decidedly present acknowledgment of the option that no sudden intervention may come. Manson’s slower pace at that moment evokes a sense of contemplation, capturing something like a sudden realization of the ominous scope of catastrophe. Stark tension accompanies that experience.
The music sometimes feels menacing—especially on album opener “The Men Who Rule the World”—but that vitriol is, generally speaking, directed outward. It’s gritty rather than necessarily unencumbered or overly free-wheeling, but that particular song runs on fist-pumping energy that pushes the trek forward, as though formulating a plan for rebellion by the light of a flickering streetlight.
Garbage often stick to heavy and hard-hitting punk, but the dynamics that they employ, sometimes seeming to stretch out and slow down the rhythms, enact a sense of sneering atmosphere that frequently bursts into emotive power.
The lyrics, which prove direct and poignant, help clearly establish the direction that Garbage are heading. On “The Men Who Rule the World,” Manson proclaims that “the men who rule the world have made a fuckin’ mess,” and the tartly expressive dynamics of her vocals and the accompanying instrumentation ensure that the searing frustration is unmissable.
Sometimes the rhythms themselves feel cathartically confrontational. “The Creeps,” which is the album’s second track, features a rapid volley of thunderously uneasy instrumentation (including synths) suggesting a surge of anxiety, before Garbage ease into the mellower, contemplative, follow-up track “Uncomfortably Me,” which feels like a rejuvenating, compassionate portrait of tiring struggle. Although No Gods No Masters often proves uneasy, it’s not oppressive. Instead, it’s anthemic—like a riveting rallying cry.
Where do those trapped in this turmoil go from here? As the album ends, Manson sings the refrain “Gotta get out,” and although it’s seemingly in the context of the city referenced by the closing track’s title, the anxious unrest seems forceful enough that it stems from other circumstances.
Garbage present a vision of movement across their new record—consistent movement, nearly always pushing ahead to find not just whatever relief but whatever critical self-actualization may await. The new album packs gusto, and the fact that Garbage keep this cartwheeling energy going throughout the weighty shock waves of their music is uplifting.
Considering the overall lyrical bent, No Gods No Masters sounds like music to tackle societal oppression to, and with its personal touch, it applies to whatever that may look like for each individual listener. The songs are dynamically captivating, and feel—in a way—alive.
Purchase this album at this link.