When Garbage broke out with their self-titled debut album in 1995, their alluring but abrasive sound—dark power-pop melodies topped by Shirley Manson’s alternately growled and whispered vocals—enticed listeners like sweet pink candy with a messy center. Their second album, 1998’s Version 2.0, expands on this recipe of fuzzed-out guitar and distorted vocals with multilayered tracks and slick production, and it helped them attain even more commercial success—including a gig recording the theme song for the 1999 James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Though they’ve had their share of highs and lows since then, including a five-year hiatus in the mid-2000s, Garbage’s original lineup remains together today: Manson, guitarist and bassist Duke Erikson, guitarist Steve Marker, and drummer Butch Vig (a producer who’d already done famous work for Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins by the time Garbage formed in 1994). On June 11 they’re releasing their seventh studio album, No Gods No Masters.
If the early Garbage albums expressed playful exploration and experimentation, No Gods No Masters—a common anarchist and labor slogan—conveys disgust and disillusion. Though its sound largely continues down the path of the band’s past records, its indictments of social injustice, misogyny, and corporate greed shift the focus away from personal obsessions and dysfunctions and toward the brokenness of the outside world. Opener “The Men Who Rule the World” starts with the jingling of a slot machine, and then Manson fires the first shot in a blazing attack on power imbalances between classes and genders: “The men who rule the world / Have made a fuckin’ mess / The history of power / The worship of success.” The machinelike synth on the title track underscores lyrics that speak of a universe with no higher beings to blame or appeal to for salvation, while the industrial grind of “Godhead” contrasts with quiet vocals from Manson that deliver a forceful assault on the double standards that allow men to hold more power because of their gender. A deluxe edition of the album due June 12 has eight additional tracks, including covers of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” (with indie rockers Screaming Females) and David Bowie’s “Starman.” Whether they’re confronting social inequity or a lover’s betrayal, Garbage show that even weltschmerz goes down easy when it’s wrapped in catchy melodies and kick-ass production. v