As one of a child-sized handful of token females in what was primarily a boys’ club, Shirley Manson took her place strong in a musical world on the outset of the grunge movement of the early ’90s, and she and her band made that world their own. The Garbage sound is best known for incorporating the melancholy of that grunge sound with something that is equal parts new wave, shoegaze and electro-pop of the previous decade to create something unarguably farsighted and successful. Garbage released four albums over a decade, taking a brief hiatus between 2005 and 2007 but only ending it with the greatest hits retrospective, Absolute Garbage. Not Your Kind of People marks the band’s first original release in seven years. And the question on the minds of fans everywhere is, “Was it worth the wait?”
It is hard to determine whether Not Your Kind of People fits in well with current musical trends, or that Garbage created the current trends and Not Your Kind of People is the sound by which so many of today’s artists have been inspired. Or both. Whatever the answer, this fifth studio effort from the post-grunge quartet picks up where burn-out and label conflicts left them (and fans) years ago, this time on their own label and their own terms.
Not Your Kind of People opens with the easily danceable “Automatic System Habit,” in which Manson discards the deplorable idea of being “your dirty little secret.” With a synthesized voice providing the refrain and a strong, toe-tapping cadence, “Automatic System Habit” is only the first track on the album in which Garbage has laid the framework for a throbbing nightclub remix. “I Hate Love,” the album’s seventh track, is already halfway there.
In an attempt to remind fans that they have never been afraid of a challenge or of turning heads, Manson melodically sings her way though what might have been a risky choice for the first single from Not Your Kind of People, the very poppy “Blood for Poppies.” It’s risky as a first single in that it is quite possibly the track that is the farthest detached from their previous sound. But, once again, Garbage has never been a band averse to taking risks.
The title track begins with a sequence that takes listeners to a place I doubt they ever expected to go while listening to a Garbage track—country music heaven. A guitar recently reminiscent of contemporary acts like Neko Case, alluding more deeply to taking inspiration from the Highwaymen, brings us into the track. But it isn’t long before the mood shifts and the song becomes a dreamy proclamation: This is who we are—unwavering and uncompromising. Deal with it. Perhaps it is a long-awaited statement to an industry that tried to force Manson into a pop princess box she clearly didn’t fit in?
Not Your Kind of People closes with an equally introspective and vulnerable track. “Beloved Freak” joins the ranks of Pink’s “F*ckin’ Perfect,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and a laundry list of other recent tracks meant to remind the underdog they are important, despite and because of their differences. Borrowing from a song I learned in Bible school as a kid, the track teeters on the precipice between being cliché and creative but still offers the trademark Garbage view of the situation.
Fans of old should not be disappointed with Not Your Kind of People, while it should gain the band a whole collection of brand new followers. Enough of the tracks will be comfortable on pop radio to make the album as successful as those that came before it.
Not Your Kind of People is available in mp3 format through iTunes May 15, 2012, and everywhere else in mp3, CD and vinyl formats (where available) May 22.