As part of my on-going blogging revolving around the alt-rock band Garbage, I decided to write a little review of their most recent release, the Record Store Day exclusive ‘The Chemicals’ a collaboration with Silver Sun Pickup’s singer Bryan Aubert. It was initially released on April 18 on a vinyl single alongside the b-side ‘On Fire’. Certainly a very exciting day for Garbage fans world-wide as this was leading up to their recently announced 20 Years Queer tour as well as their much anticipated sixth album, scheduled for release at the end of 2015 / beginning of 2016. The single is also out on iTunes on 02 June.
Since its release, I’ve played this track and re-played it and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t hitting me like other classics from this imaginative and multi-talented band. Then one night, after not listening to the track for a while, I gave it another go.
I certainly love the start, that electronic beat with a rumbling, distant explosion effect … very ‘them’ and announced this track as a band certainly not losing their touch. The guitars that follow also build excitement and as momentum increases, singer Shirley Manson’s haunting, heavily-processed (?) vocals kick in. The iconic Scottish-born singer sounds authoritive and rather seductive. The lyrics are also effective, with a myriad of layered meanings that I can’t say I understand but still appreciate like in many of Garbage’s more complex song writing (‘Hammering In My Head’ comes to mind). As the track progresses we’re hit with an assault of heavy beats and intensely delivered ‘I need your heaven’, which at first overwhelms, yet with further thought, does create a powerful feeling that perfectly slips into the extended, down-beat and hypnotic ‘The Chemicals’. This part acts more like an instrumental than a conventional chorus with varying ways the title is repeated along with the gradual power of guitars and drums. In these segments that we get twice, Bryan Auburt’s voice certainly brings an extra layer to the song, giving the listener things to notice only after repeat plays. Also that ending, as the title is repeated then quits and we get the guitars strumming and the beats and the heavy riffs until … nothing, Wow.
I’d call this Garbage developing their signature-sound for a modern era. Their last album ‘Not Your Kind Of People’ blended old and some new but felt mostly familiar (not a bad thing). However as we’ve heard with ‘Girls Talk Shit’ and The Chemicals’ equally layered B-Side ‘On Fire’, new Garbage; delivered with an echo of the past but with a strong vibe of something the band haven’t majorly explored before, isn’t as scary as I initially thought. I can’t say I totally love it now, but have started to appreciate the track a lot more now that I’ve got my head around Garbage’s new approach and wealth of ideas at play.
On a side note, as interesting a concept as the video is, I think it’s overly intense style and setting does the song a slight disservice. For me, The Chemicals works best without any visual accompaniment.