Shirley Manson and her merry band of rock lunatics enlist Dave Grohl (Nirvana / Foo Fighters) on the opening track of Bleed Like Me to gigantic effect. On "Bad Boyfriend", Guitars and drums gnash viciously, like junkyard dogs threatening to charge and maul you, the intruder, at any second.
Thankfully they're just barely restrained by Manson's chain; in this case a vocal delivery that's calm like a bomb and very rarely out of control. The overall effect is similar to what you'd get if you had Nina Persson (The Cardigans) fronting for Placebo; or at an extreme Suzanne Vega taking on The Jesus and Mary Chain.
If the intention of "Bad Boyfriend" is indeed to make you bleed, it very nearly succeeds. Even so, where the first quarter of this high-end rock album tears through the flannel veneer of UK anti-grunge, the unexpectedly menacing, dirty feel of the title track bumps out of the landscape to jolt you back to attention. Frontperson Manson was scary before, but she's scarily sexy now - her performance throws Avril's downy fuzziness into sharp relief. This is rock, not as Avril's teenage fans would have it, but as it should be - an inbred cousin of New York Punk and Eurosleaze.
In various places Bleed Like Me employs the core staples of rock n roll. Listen out for the driving Pixies-style bass licks on "Sex is not the Enemy" (Garbage founder Butch Vig produced many of the Pixies' classics), the slow, string-accompanied anthemics on "It's all Over But the Crying" and the wall-like guitar distortion on the rest.
But somehow the album never collapses into cliche. It delivers surprisingly high production value throughout. And why shouldn't it? It's been four years, after all, since Garbage's last offering. The wait certainly seems to have been worth it.
- Anton Marshall
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID:The good news is, if you're already a Garbage fan, there's probably not a lot here to put you off.- Top of the Pops
"...while Manson's changeling vocals are always worth listening to, Garbage's songs often aren't."- Betty Clarke for The Guardian
Despite attempts at audacity, Bleed Like Me sounds overly willing to please, which is all the more damning because it so rarely does.- Stephan M. Deusner for Pitchfork Media
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