BY MARIANA GARRICK
Garbage’s seventh album is more political than ever as they address the world’s current condition. Following their 2016 album Strange Little Birds, No Gods No Masters emerges at a time where society is slowly going back to the norm (whatever that is) after having months to reflect on life’s monstrosities. Released on June 11, the album takes its name from an anarchist slogan from the 1880’s. With 11 songs on the regular version of the album and a total of 19 on the deluxe, Garbage’s hour-long creation highlights the injustices and inequalities revolving around race, gender, and sex.
Incomparable to their last album, Garbage’s most recent album is extremely different. Strange Little Birds showed a different side of Shirley Manson by revealing her personal emotions and hardships. On the other hand, No Gods No Masters is a powerful and opinionated think-piece that surfaces after five years of chaos. Manson, guitarists Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, and drummer Butch Vig use this album as a way to blow off steam and express their dissatisfaction with the government, men in power, and double standards.
“The men who rule the world have made a f**king mess,” the Scottish singer spits in the album’s first song. “Money, Money, Money” is whispered in the background with winning slot machine noises in the back of the song, signifying the power money holds in society and how it rules the world. The first track of the album addresses the growing and unsolved poverty problem (“Tented cities on sidewalks underneath the clouds”) while calling to destroy the people who have created a world full of inequality.
Before going more politically in depth, Manson reveals how much she’s matured since her “It Girl” era in the 90’s with the songs “Uncomfortably Me” and “Wolves.” (“Always trying hard to impress // Wish I’d told them all, ‘Go to hell’ // But I never had the common sense”). She describes her past self as rude, judgmental, impolite and impulsive in the songs before diving back into current events.
More instances of inequality are brought to light in “Waiting for God,” where Manson and company call on God and question where He is in the midst of all the madness. Mass shootings (“Or was there a lockdown at school”) and the killing of black men are highlighted (“While black boys get shot in the back // Were they caught riding their bike // Or guilty of walking alone ?”) while Garbage expresses concern for the mothers of the victims (“She’s choking on sadness with no hope for justice // Just look what they did to her boy”). Manson ends the song reciting lines from a Christian prayer while asking, “Who have we become ?” despite the fact the racism is not anything new in the U.S.
“Would you deceive me if I had a dick?” Manson asks in the hardcore-whispering track “Godhead.” The song scrutinizes double standards and repeatedly asks that if she was a man, would people hear her, believe her, or still deceive her. “Call me a bitch, I’m a terrorist,” the Scottish singer says in response to any backlash. It seems as if Manson is taking the power back from the men who call her the B-word for her opinions in a, “I’m a bitch. So what ?” type of way. “No matter what you have done, you are the Godhead, the chosen one,” she sings to address male patriarchy and leadership.
In the next few songs, Garbage primarily sheds the light on men. In “Anonymous XXX,” the band describes the dehumanizing process of a paid sexual encounter. “Our love is supreme, but you’ve taken it for granted. You’ve been stupid, reckless, and you’ve been careless,” Manson seethes in “A Woman Destroyed.” The track’s name is self-explanatory, as it depicts a woman who is destroyed by the unfaithfulness of her husband, who leaves his wife for a much younger woman. The wife then plans her revenge (“Lock your door, keep the lights on // Don’t walk in the dark // Get a guard dog // I guess I’ll be taking my revenge”). In the upbeat tempo of “Flipping the Bird,” Manson feels empowered enough to stand up to male figures who “mansplain” with condescending or patronizing language.
With the strumming of guitars, the title track states, “The future is mine just the same // No master or gods to obey // I’ll make all the same mistakes // Over and over again.” In a statement it was revealed “No Gods No Masters” was inspired by a trip Manson took to Santiago, Chile, where she witnessed protests against inequality and corruption. The alt-rock singer was shocked by the graffiti she saw on old statues and museums, until her tour guide questioned why she was more shocked by the hurt monuments than the hurt people of the country. Manson described that the moment of realization felt like a “slap in the face.” Her moments in Chile reminded her of the constant debates to remove confederate statues and memorials in America.
In a generation where there are the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, Garbage took advantage of the platform they have to address these on-going issues. With help from her bandmates, Manson’s commanding presence and ability to stay true to her beliefs made this a memorable album. With their anti-power sentiments in No Gods No Masters, Garbage stayed true to their brutally honest, unapologetic nature. Nearly 30 years into their career and even after an “indefinite” hiatus, the band has proved that they will not stay silent during times like this.
Fans of the band will also find the content on the deluxe version of the release a welcome addition to Garbage’s catalog. Featuring covers of David Bowie’s “Starman” and the Springsteen / Patti Smith anthem “Because The Night,” the eclectic extras also include “Destroying Angels,” a collaboration with Exene Cervenka and John Doe from the seminal Los Angeles punk band X.
Garbage is scheduled to visit the Bay Area on September 29th at the Concord Pavilion as part of a tour that also includes Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair. Tickets are available thru Live Nation.