Garbage – No Gods No Masters
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It’s been over a quarter of a century since Garbage released their self-titled debut album, and with it introduced themselves to the world as alt-rock pioneers with something to say and a chart-topping way to say it.
As ever, on album number seven, Garbage have points to make. No Gods No Masters is a back-to-back diatribe against racism, police brutality, misogyny, sexism, climate change and capitalism. The songs leave little room for interpretation. Responding to the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, “Waiting For God” sees lead-singer and grunge idol Shirley Manson tell the story of a mother “choking on sadness with no hope for justice” as the methodical drums governing the track evaporate like steam, making space for a heavy-lidded synthy soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place on a film score.
No Gods No Masters is full of transitions like this. The album clamours for your attention. Manson and co careen from gothic glam to industrial pop and punk rock, then back again. It’s a helter-skelter experience strung together by Manson’s fight-the-power songwriting. Whether it’s delivered in shouty rage or hushed menace, the message is clear: the world is terrible.
The album doles out small doses of riot grrrl nostalgia but for the most part, on No Gods No Masters, Garbage stretch beyond the gilded cage of their Nineties icon status to reach for something new – often, but not always, to effective ends. AN
Maroon 5 – Jordi
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I’ve often wondered if Adam Levine is a robot. The Maroon 5 frontman has what could be described as an “autotune” voice: a ridiculously smooth, effortless-sounding tenor that is, for the most part, devoid of character. It’s an easy voice to sing along to, which is probably why the band, who have been going for 20 years now, have an inordinate number of hits to their name.
They’re now on album number seven, Jordi, named after the band’s late manager Jordan Feldstein (actor Jonah Hill’s older brother), who died unexpectedly in 2017. It’s a lovely sentiment that I don’t doubt is sincere. The issue is trying to differentiate between a song that pays tribute to loved ones who are no longer with us and yet another one about Levine’s obsession with naked women.
Many of these songs are hip hop-lite, incorporating bland trap beats as Levine delivers lyrics in the kind of stutter pioneered by early Soundcloud rappers. R&B singer H.E.R. helps lift “Convince Me Otherwise” out of an Eighties quagmire of squelchy bass and insipid piano. Her voice – lilting, romantic – seems to inspire Levine to get some actual emotion into his own voice. It’s not too long before it’s back to basics, though: “You could make a grown man cry,” he tells his lover on the obnoxiously possessive “Nobody’s Love”.
There’s something fascinating about the way Maroon 5’s music continues to slither into the charts. In a way it’s representative of Maroon 5 themselves: ubiquitous, but irrelevant. ROC