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CD of The Week

Week of 6/14/21

    Garbage - No Gods No Masters (Stunvolume / Infectious)

    Seven albums and 25+ years into their career, Garbage have blazed a trail of electro-tinged alt-rock. The three multi-instrumentalists/producers have given Shirley Manson a foundation for her to alternate between fiery fury and pure vulnerability. On No Gods No Masters, the band pushes both versions to their extremes, as Manson takes big swings at big issues.

    Opener “The Men Who Rule the World” sets up the thesis statement for No Gods No Masters, mixing slot machine sounds in while Manson rails against centuries of greed and the patriarchy. There’s even a futurist Noah’s ark parable in there for good measure.

    “The Creeps” might be their most punk rock-y song with a pulse-pounding tempo as Manson revisits her mental health at the band’s lowest point. Elsewhere, “Godhead” gets into Depeche Mode / industrial territory with some wild guitar work (it’s usually Duke Erikson on guitar but with this band, you’re never quite sure).

    The timely mood piece “Waiting for God” is the heartbreaking center of the record. Written before the past year’s events and protests, Manson sings of the heartbreak of the senseless deaths of minorities at the hands of violence, racism, the police…you name it. She vocalizes the thoughts of worried parents who ask themselves “Did she get lost in the rains? / Or was there a lockdown at school?” and describes an oblivious country where “We're keeping our fingers crossed / Smiling at fireworks that light all our skies up / While black boys get shot in the back.” After 2020, the country’s eyes have been opened more to these killings and Manson’s clearly have as well.

    “Anonymous XXX” and “A Woman Destroyed” feel stripped down to the basics of their earliest album. And what took Manson so long to write a song titled “Flipping the Bird?” These three songs fit together as a triptych of different angles on the takedown of powerful men. This begs the question: why wasn’t No Gods No Masters the soundtrack to Promising Young Woman?

    God and religion have been a constant in Garbage songs going all the way back to “As Heaven is Wide” on their debut. The Almighty is all over the new album… on “Wolves,” Manson sings about how “our god is a crazy kind of god” and you have “Waiting for God,” “Godhead” *and* the title track. In fact, the outstanding, pulsating title track is a true highlight, calling to make a better tomorrow and tearing down the old leaders in favor of a future for “all our friends, all our lovers, all our babies.”

    No Gods No Masters is not subtle, but at this point in the world and in their career, there’s no time or room for subtlety. And Shirley and the boys know they’re lucky to have their pulpit to preach the good word of treating our fellow man as equals, not as their masters.
    Review by Joey O.

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