Album review: Garbage – No Gods No Masters

Shirley Manson and Garbage deliver righteous anger and a rallying cry on album number seven, No Gods No Masters.

Album review: Garbage – No Gods No Masters
James Hickie

When Kerrang! conducted a career-spanning interview with Shirley Manson in early 2018, Garbage’s singer was in garrulous form as she identified the ills of a planet she’s occupied for 54 years and counting. “When the world gets scared, the first people they punish are the women,” she suggested, extrapolating on a wider point about the downturn in her band’s fortunes in the post-9/11 landscape. That her band have gone on to release a new album with a spiky opening track called The Men Who Rule The World should come as a surprise to no one, then. That Garbage should sound so imperious and relevant doing it is the more startling development.

Whether No Gods No Masters is Garbage’s most political album is up for debate. It certainly feels it, and wears its plumage more vividly than 2016’s excellent Strange Little Birds, but what it does have in common with its predecessor is the deftness with which it captures a rock band wielding experience like a sword and shield. Garbage have long since adopted a sleek strain of industrial-pop, levelling the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic in favour of something more cinematic (Waiting For God befits 007 even more than their actual Bond theme, The World Is Not Enough).

Not everything is in need of updating, of course. Shirley’s ability to fashion a variety of sharp vocal hooks within the course of the same song, without resorting to the obvious, remains a timeless gift. This is best illustrated by the Depeche Mode-meets-Nine Inch Nails stomp of Godhead, on which she’s both confrontational and vulnerable in the course of a whisper. This pours emotion, a welcome injection of anger chief among them, onto arrangements seemingly designed to be cold, which gives the been-there-done-that perspective of the lyrics even more bite.

No Gods No Masters is one of the coolest, most vital releases of 2021, let alone one by a band some 30 years and seven albums into their career. Listen and learn.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Skunk Anansie, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails

No Gods No Masters is released on June 11 via BMG.

READ THIS: Butch Vig: "I looked at bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin as these untouchable rock gods… But when punk came out, I thought, ‘I could do that’”

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