Garbage – No Gods No Masters

No Gods No Masters

Garbage

2021 • ROCK • INFECTIOUS

7.0

On their seventh record, the American band Garbage goes back to their roots, delivering catchy but political tracks. It’s their strongest album since 1998’s Version 2.0.

It’s relatively normal for long-lasting bands, over the years, to lose a bit of their hand when creating their songs. Look, for example, at Weezer, who at the beginning of their career, in the 1990s, were making the best alternative rock songs but years later were delivering the worst works of the genre. Or even the great timeless rock idols like Bruce Springsteen, who had his 1970s and 1980s as the best ever seen in a music career, but his 1990s was one of the weakest. It is relatively normal for a band’s creativity to lose all its energy over time and for them to continue to play even while their strength is still in a slow recharge mode. This happened with the American band Garbage, which, since entering the 2000s, has been presenting increasingly weak projects. However, their latest release No Gods No Masters, their seventh record, is like that last breath that shows they can be fully recharged again.

No Gods No Masters is named after a 19th-century Marxist slogan. In a way, this couldn’t be more appropriate as this is the band’s most political album so far. They were inspired by the various social, political, and economic events that have been reverberating with problems in recent years. But much more than just talking about it, they build a sound that doesn’t lose the good old band identity and delivers politically aware but equally fun, well-produced, and mesmerizing songs. It’s their first album since 2016’s Strange Little Birds and was partly written and produced during the 20th-anniversary tour of their 1998’s Version 2.0. No Gods No Masters is also their best album since Version 2.0.

The beginning of No Gods No Masters is one of the most powerful beginnings Garbage has released to date. The first few seconds of “The Men Who Rule the World,” the opener, show the noise of casino machines. Quickly, synthesizers appear with classic rock beats with retro pop influences. Shirley Manson appears singing, she sounds more energetic than ever. Playing with mesmerizing heavy string solos and synthesizers, the music works on all issues of capitalism, from females on courts to plastic on turtles. She sings, “The men who rule the world/Have made a fucking mess/The history of power/The worship of success.” However, the strongest point of the track is the outro, where she relentlessly orders the listener, “The violator, hate the violator/The violator, destroy the violator.” It had been years since Manson had sounded so strong as to make you believe her.

The next few songs manage to maintain this same quality standard as the first track. Although “The Creeps” is much more pop-oriented and not as heavy, violent, and incisive as the first track and sounds a little longer than it is, it still has an incredible production and well-written lyrics about overcoming your challenges. Building on the things Shirley went through when she was dropped by her old record label, she sings, “I’m gonna think my way around this wall I cannot change/They’ve got a gun against my head.” Later, “Waiting for God” is one of the more concise tracks on the record, as an excellent atmosphere construction made by synthesizers and analogs, creating the feeling that the band was a group of demonic angels playing the song in the middle of the apocalypse. The track, in a nutshell, is about the issues of racism and Black Lives Matter that were hotly debated last year, with, “Look what they did to her boy,” possibly referring to George Floyd’s death. But it’s when Manson works out her anxiety on “Uncomfortably Me” that she delivers the best track on the record. The song starts with heavy synthesizers, the most impressive of the entire album that create a certain discomfort. Then she, with her soft voice that contrasts with the background sound, sings, “Spend everyday wishing my life away/Always so nervous and unsure of myself.”

However, over time, the album seems to lose a little of the sense, becoming something very heavy and tiring that seems to demand a lot from the listener and not knowing how to dose its dark moments with something lighter that would serve as a necessary breathing moment. It’s on the track “Anonymous XXX” that everything seems to fall apart, in which they seem to understand that the listener needed that breather but they deliver a track that doesn’t seem to present it in the best possible way. Of course, the track is very good, by the way, with very good production, but it doesn’t seem to fit very well in the total context of the album, and it’s not quite the rest that the listener needed as it seems to tire you out more since you try to understand its purpose within the album. Next, “A Woman Destroyed,” despite being a track the band seems to have put a lot of work into, is much longer than it should have been and has choruses totally out of sync with the other areas of music — at least the bridge is very good. Meanwhile, “Flipping the Bird” is the most uninteresting track with nothing too special to stand out from.

In the final stretch of No Gods No Masters, however, the band redeems itself. After tracks like “Wolves,” which was already weak but ended up being even weaker by being placed after the best song on the record, and “Godhead,” which after a few listens seems to get less and less special, they hand over the title track, one of the best. In this one they come back with force with synthesizers mirrored in the 1980s, creating a very fun, cool, catchy, well-produced, and well-written song, with Shirley worrying about the future we will leave and whether our decent ones have made the same mistakes as us. “The future is mine just the same/No master or gods to obey/I’ll make all the same mistakes,” she sings. Lastly, even though “This City Will Kill You” is relatively weak to close the record, it’s still very good, mainly because of the instrumental inspired by a heavy and scary orchestra. In the end, she repeats “Got to get out, got to get out.” For the first time in years, you don’t feel desperate to do that. 

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