April 28, 2005

Garbage: Bleed Like Me

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The first CD I ever bought, all the way back in middle school, was Garbage’s self-titled debut album. It was a match made in heaven; angsty teenager and equally angsty music. Soon after, “Only Happy When it Rains” became the song I’d tell people to listen to if they wanted to know “the real me” and the accompaniment of the dreary “#1 Crush” to the equally dreary Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes version of Romeo and Juliet merely solidified my love. Then came a gradual decline of appreciation occasionally flavored by revelations like “Wow Garbage performed a James Bond theme song.”

Bleed Like Me marks the end of Garbage’s four year period of nothingness. Well, it wasn’t actually nothingness when you consider the slew of drama, break-ups and other misfortunes that befell the band members. The album also marks a departure from the pop-ish, electronica concoctions produced by the band in the recent past. This is Garbage the rock band, an entity comprised essentially of nothing but Shirley Mansion’s vocals and guitars x 1001. There is production but that is most definitely not the main area of focus.

Although communicating a distinct feel with its eleven tracks, the album is far from being simply formulaic with its choice of songs. The first single “Why Do You Love Me” highlight’s Bleed Like Me’s tendency to focus on raw revelations that seem to allow listeners a glimpse within oft-concealed private contemplations. Offset with the sound of harsh guitars, the album tells audiences that the angst is still here, but now the product is less superficial.

The confessional “Bleed Like Me” is especially interesting because it combines a deceptively milder sound with lyrics like, “Doodle takes dad’s scissors to her skin/ And when she does relief comes setting in/ While she hides the scars she’s making/ Underneath her pretty clothes/ She sings:/ Hey baby can you bleed like me?”

Shirley Manson is effective whether she’s draping her sultry vocals with ease over ballads like “It’s All Over But the Crying” or tempering them to convey deep conviction on revealing insights like “Bad Boyfriend” (a song with drumming courtesy of Dave Grohl). Meanwhile, the catchy guitar hooks of “Why Don’t You Come Over” prove that in no way does Bleed Like Me get caught up in the lull symptomatic of somber content. Garbage even indulges in a little philosophy with “Sex is Not the Enemy.” The return of the band I used to love is marked by a long-delayed sense of satisfaction that just like me, they could “grow out of that phase.”

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor