Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Garbage, Strange Little Birds

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Scottish-American rock band Garbage.
Scottish-American rock band Garbage.

Shirley Manson is best when she's knotted with rage.

"Sometimes I'd rather take a beating," she snarls on Sometimes. "I learn more when I am bleeding."

They're the first lines on the opening track of Garbage's excellently angry new album. She's just warming up.

Across Strange Little Birds Manson is ragged and restless, writhing with hatred and self-loathing, and the music, industrial-strength wallops propelled forward by drummer/producer Butch Vig, matches her mood.

"I am so empty," is Manson's hook for Empty, her wail stretching across delightfully grungy guitar drones and hammered drum patterns.

Blackout, meanwhile, comes with a brilliantly feisty second half, as Manson spits lines out like broken teeth across a breakdown that just kills.

If that's the sound of a tree crashing at the end, it's entirely apt. Thankfully, Strange Little Birds has most in common with Garbage's first album, their 1995 breakthrough that delivered a blistering feminine take on the male-dominated grunge scene.

Later albums saw them break into future pop territory with mild success, and then break up after 2005's troubled Bleed Like Me.

But here, two albums into their reunion, Garbage seem to have found themselves, and that's largely thanks to Manson's fraying temperament.

"I'm getting desperate for a revolution," she sings on Even Though Our Love is Doomed. If she keeps this up, she'll start one all on her own.

Verdict: Scot-rockers back on snarly form

- TimeOut

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