ALBUM REVIEW: Garbage – ‘No Gods No Masters’

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane {The Colourful Writer}

Kicking off my birthday month reviewing the latest album from a band I have loved since my teens is seriously cool. 

Flashback to 1995 and teenage Shannon was full of angst and yearning for strong, confidant, talented and inspiring female role models. I found them not only in women around me but in artists, writers, actors and musicians; especially musicians. Having an affinity with music from a young age, women who knew how to rock had huge appeal for me. 

Enter Shirley Manson, frontwoman of rock band, Garbage. Watching her on early morning TV music shows singing the tough yet seductive lyrics to songs like their first big hit, Vow as she worked herself around the microphone sporting a huge red furry jacket, black fingernails, singlet, pants and yellow sunnies perched on top of her head (I swear everyone in the 90’s owned a pair of yellow lense sunnies at some point, Iost mine at a Livid festival circa 1997) – She was the epitome of grunge rock style and ‘tough girl’ grace that I so loved. Not only that but she could sing and perform like it was her true calling in life.  

“I came to cut you up, I came to knock you down
I came around to tear your little world apart
I came to shut you up, I came to drag you down
I came around to tear your little world apart… and break your soul apart…”

By the time the single Queer came along, I was hooked, well and truly. This band sang to my heart. This song, among others of theirs became anthems to not only me, but a whole generation of rock, grunge and alternative music fans of the 90’s. 

“Hey boy, take a look at me
Let me dirty up your mind
I’ll strip away your hard veneer
And see what I can find
The queerest of the queer
The strangest of the strange
The coldest of the cool
The lamest of the lame
The numbest of the dumb
I hate to see you here
You choke behind a smile
A fake behind the fear
The queerest of the queer…”

Shirley was of course, not alone, she was surrounded by more talent in musicians, Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards) and the legendary Butch Vig (drums, production) who was already known by myself and other grunge loving 90’s kids as the producer of the diamond-selling Nirvana album ‘Nevermind.’ So, a recipe for success? I certainly think so! Here we are many moons later and the band with the original line up (Say what!? How many bands do you know that still have the original line up!?) are set to release their seventh record. A recent quote from Manson explains it best:

“This is our seventh record, the significant numerology of which affected the DNA of its content: the seven virtues, the seven sorrows, and the seven deadly sins,” says Manson “It was our way of trying to make sense of how fucking nuts the world is and the astounding chaos we find ourselves in. It’s the record we felt that we had to make at this time.” 

So let’s do this. Let’s delve into this new piece of musical artwork from Garbage, their seventh studio album. ‘No Gods No Masters’ opens with the first single released, The Men Who Rule The World. Controversy, women’s rights, money is evil, save the animals, save the arts, hate the violators. This song has it all. In one neat parcel. The comic book collage style music video matches the vibe perfectly. 

“The men who rule the world
Have made a fucking mess
The history of power
The worship of success
The king is in the counting house
He’s chairman of the board
The women who crowd the courtrooms
All accused of being whores…”

The Creeps is up next and follows suit in its velocity and ‘in your face’ energy to the first track. It’s classic Garbage but with a slightly more modernised edge. It’s a little like an angry dance track. I could put this track on and work out to it. I am quite sure I could hold a plank for twice as long listening to this one, the pure drive, force and anger behind it would inspire me to do so. 

Uncomfortably Me has an 80’s vibe of synthesizers over the top of the music. This track slows the pace a little. This one is a sorrowful ballad of all kinds of pains within oneself. It actually makes me feel a little sad and uncomfortable, so the title is very apt. Thank goodness the next track picks me back up again from feeling sorry for myself. Wolves sees Manson’s vocal twists displayed in full glory and if I close my eyes I can imagine her twisting herself around the microphone as she pelts this one out. There’s that strong, yet seductive vocal that Shirley does so immeasurably well. I still remember seeing Garbage perform at what I think was Livid ‘96, though my memories of those days are kind of hazy. I was so close to the front of the stage that I could not only see the band but could feel the music pouring through my veins. What a time. How I long for those times, nothing compares to those festivals! 

Wolves was released last month as a single from the album and features an abstract art style music video.

Waiting For God begins with an almost eerie reverb sound with Manson’s lower vocal range displayed here as she sings deep, dark and steady to open the track. Though she moves into an ethereal vocal for the chorus and then back to the dark vocal. This song feels like heartbreak and touches on the Black Lives Matter movement “Look what they did to her boy, and nobody’s blinking an eye…” It seems each song on the album touches on something that is prevalent and important in our world. Things that need to have attention drawn to them.

Godhead is by far my favourite song from the album. The lyrics open with “Would you deceive me if I had a dick?…” Attention grabbing straight up. Later “Get off my tits!” This song is a clear and strong attack towards sexism and misogyny and I absolutely love it and the way it is delivered. There is a slight techo/industrial rock vibe in this track, reminding me of some early Def FX

Anonymous XXX has something seductive and soft about it and yet at the same time has the listener believe that Manson is the one in full control, nothing soft about her presence in this song. Though I guess, that’s her in general really isn’t it? She is such an amazingly strong frontwoman.

A Woman Destroyed commences like something out of a horror film, with dark undertones and echoing strings like someone or something creeping, lurking, somewhere in the shadows. Flipping The Bird lightens the mood but keeps with the whole ‘in control’ vibe. The title itself giving away what this song is about. 

The title track, No Gods No Masters is up next and was released as a single in April along with a music video that looks to be set in a dive bar with Manson sporting a beret, checked tights and knee high boots and later dressed as a God/Goddess on the cross. 

The album closes with This City Will Kill You. Opening with piano/keys and a soft blues like emotion, a soft vocal accompanies the music. This one winds things down as we come to the end of this glorious, political, emotive and high quality album. As the music stops there is one final “You’ve got to get out” spoken with a certain desperation from Manson, which creates a strong impact and leaves you feeling as though this album was made to make you stop and think and take notice of the messages within.

Produced by Garbage and long-time collaborator Billy Bush, ‘No Gods No Masters’ is released Friday June 11, 2021 through Liberator Music. It will be available on neon green vinyl, white vinyl, and deluxe CD (with 8 bonus tracks, 4 art cards and a poster), plus standard CD, streaming and download.

Garbage – ‘No Gods No Masters
Album out 11 June 2021 through Liberator Music
Pre-order here

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With thanks to Liberator Music + Mushroom

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