Garbage: Strange Little Birds (Stunvolume) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Strange Little Birds


Jun 23, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Indie music fandom 101 tells us that commercial success is overrated. Strange Little Birds, Garbage‘s first album in four years since Not Your Kind of People, though, is the lowest-charting of their career and perhaps this is telling: for it does feel like their least essential.

This is not to say it is a bad album by any means; there are individual songs on here that stand among Garbage’s very best. “If I Lost You” is moody and minimalist, driven by Butch Vig’s trademark glitchiness, a seductive bass line and vocals from Shirley Manson that sound like she simultaneously wants to seduce you and beat the ever loving shit out of you (I understand there is a niche market for this, so there’s one presumably inadvertent market for the album). “Magnetized” is a pulsing slice of electronic pop with a glorious vocal hook that shows Manson’s voice at its best, while “We Never Tell” is in the same vein.

That said, too much of Strange Little Birds is filler. Lead single “Empty,” for example, is a straightforward churn of power chords that, Vig’s percussion aside, could have been produced by any post-grunge band of the 21st centuryat this stage too, Manson’s vocal has been copied so many times that even she doesn’t sound particularly distinctive here. This is a theme that recurs throughout: a lot of the more minimalist tracks such as “Sometimes” and “Amends” just sound like cheap trip-hop knock offs.

This is, on the face of it, perhaps the strongest album Garbage have released this century. It’s not as ill-judged as the post-9/11 Beautiful Garbage and the songs, taken individually, are better than those on Bleed Like Me, and it’s certainly less of a trudgemore variedthan the nadir of Not Your Kind of People. However it does sound very, very ‘90s-if you stuck “When I Grow Up” on here it would be the best song but it wouldn’t sound out of place. It is a regression to the best of Garbage, but a regression nonetheless. (

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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August 8th 2016

Been listening to this album a lot lately, and agree with most of your review. It doesn’t hold up to the debut or Version 2.0, but I suppose it’s probably unfair to expect that. I do disagree about the lead single ‘Empty’, I think it’s a really catchy song and one of the album’s best along with ‘Night Drive Loneliness’ and ‘We Never Tell’.
Shirley’s still great and I’m just happy that they’re still around and releasing new music.

July 12th 2018

Strange Little Birds album is great!
Shirley’s voice is just getting better, richer, and more full of depth as she gets older.