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Garbage Bleeds for their Art on New CD

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There have only been a handful of great debut albums (Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” comes to mind). It is not the natural order of things for an artist to create a masterpiece on the first attempt and it rarely happens. The 90s saw a pair of landmark debut albums. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and Garbage’s self-titled album are two of the best records of the decade and two of the better debuts (think how much more successful Garbage could have been had “#1 Crush” been included).

What is a band to do when they get it right the first time? Bleed Like Me is Garbage’s third attempt to answer that question. Garbage was a genius piece of rock meeting technology filled with catchy singles and attitude. Version 2.0 had some great singles but overly fussy production overdid the electronica angle and the album felt occasionally hollow and disjointed. They dabbled with different styles and sounds on Beautifulgarbage. The experimentation was interesting but the album was short on songs. “Bleed Like Me” is perhaps the band’s most coherent attempt at following up their masterpiece.

The electronic bleatings and sampled beats have not disappeared but have been downplayed for much of the album. This time out Garbage has settled on being a rock band rather than trying to overdo it (“V2.0”) or reinvent themselves (Beautifulgarbage). Those electronic flourishes are not missed because the standard issue modern guitar riff is transformed by the band’s secret weapon: Shirley Manson’s charisma.

The opening salvo finds recently liberated Manson looking for a good time (“Bad Boyfriend”). Other standout tracks follow as the first half of the album is clearly the strongest. “Run Baby Run” and “Right Between the Eyes” are works of confidence. “Why Do You Love Me” is Garbage’s strongest single in years. None of these songs are groundbreaking in their structure or theme. They do not need to be because Garbage is a good enough band to live within the framework they laid for themselves over the past decade. Good songwriting and good songs trump a lack of innovation in sonic style the way good pitching beats good hitting in baseball. The first half of Bleed Like Me succeeds.

The title cut “Bleed Like Me” reads like P.O.D.’s “Youth of a Nation” with a list of characters battling with demons such as self-mutilation, eating disorders, therapy junkies, and gender issues. Garbage does it without hamfisted, annoying rapping and is therefore a much better song. Manson’s layered vocals at the end of the song lend a beauty and humanity to these characters.

The second half of Bleed Like Me falters because the songs are just not there. It is a coincidence these songs feature more electronic elements rather than an indictment of them. Songs like “Boys Wanna Fight” and “Why Don’t You Come Over” are exercises in sizzle without steak. The music tries to be interesting but these songs ultimately fail.

Bleed Like Me is not a masterwork. It is simply a strong, listenable album created by four veteran artists who understand their art and their craft. Garbage may not ever reach the heights of their debut. Bleed Like Me is a good enough album to make fans everywhere hope they continue trying.

GRADE: B

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    I always believed Version 2.0 was their masterpiece. My reasoning is that it is probably more common for musicians to come out with a masterful debut album than to come out with a masterful 2nd album (especially after having a masterful debut album). Hence the term “sophomore slump.” Version 2.0 managed to overcome that and became an album in its own right. Plus it brought forth their best song to date, “Temptation Waits.”

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    Interesting point regarding debut vs sophomore slump. I would submit that sophomore slump is only invoked when the debut was extraordinary in the first place.

    I like “Temptation Waits” but I don’t think it is their best song. I also think the rest of the album is a bit uneven. There are good songs and I like it but that debut is just incredible.

  • http://www.temtpationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Their debut was incredible, but my opinion is that Version 2.0 was in no way as sophomore slump. I thoroughly love both albums and if given the choice between the 2, I wouldn’t know which to choose.

    Anyway, I forgot to mention that I enjoyed your review of Bleed Like Me, but I think it ranks a distant 3rd in their catalogue (4th being Beautifulgarbage). Odd thing is though, I found the mid to last half of the album to be the strongest. I especially love “It’s All Over but the Crying”. And although I don’t particularly listen to “Why Don’t You Come Over” that often, I dig the Karen O-like belting near the end of the song. It is also one of the few songs in the album that treads new ground (as well as “Boys Wanna Fight” and “Metal Heart”). An enjoyable album over all, but I would have to say, I don’t think they’ll ever achieve the level that they reached in the 90’s.

  • Colleen

    I agree with your review for the most part, although I believe Version 2.0 is better than the debut because it not only perfects the original “formula”, but exceeds it, and that album (V2.0) broke new ground for pop music. BG was a letdown for me, but is by no means a “bad” album. I think Bleed Like Me is tied with the debut for #2 in my G collection. The debut overall is more “original” since it obviously was their first album and the world’s first taste of this band (and they truly were ahead of their time in the 90’s, before other acts started using similar production techniques in the 2000’s), but BLM is more satisying overall, because almost all the tracks are really strong, whereas the debut has some “fillers” (Dog New Tricks, Fix Me Now, etc). Had Garbage put “Space Can Come Through Anyone”, a new bside, instead of “Why Don’t You Come Over”, on BLM, I would say the album is flawless.

  • http://www.pmmediareview.com/default_bc.aspx Mark Runyon

    Nice nod to “#1 Crush” which I still think is their best song and ranks right up there with “Every Breath You Take” for all time stalker song. I agree with the general sentiments that Version 2.0 was their masterpiece. While their self-titled debut was a very solid work, it still showed a band finding its cohesiveness and the sound wasn’t quite as refined and tight as it could be. Version 2.0 seemed to fulfill that promise. Otherwise, I agree completely with your review DJRadiohead. Bleed Like Me is a great listen though it isn’t groundbreaking. It has some really nice moments.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    DJR

    This now has another venue for success – and more eyes – at the Advance.net Web sites, a place affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

    Even though it is a little delayed, also please let your contact know, if you had one, that this article, is published at one more place. That helps to show they get two?, three? for the “price” of one.

    Thank you.
    Temple Stark