“Empty”: Garbage Unload Their Baggage in a Return-to-Form Ode to Insecurity


“Good things come to those that wait…or so they say.”

No need to be doubtful, Shirley: in this case, it’s true.

Although my musical taste might primarily be dominated by tightly choreographed acts in wigs and stilettos, Garbage — a band! — has always been a rare, but no less beloved, exception. This is largely to do with the fact that Shirley Manson is just that much of an unrelenting nonconformist rock goddess, but also because the music is so consistently fierce and explosive and raw. And enduring! (I was only just listening to “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing” on repeat yesterday, funnily enough.)

“Empty” is the band’s first single from their upcoming album Strange Little Birds due out in June, their first in four years since 2012’s excellent Not Your Kind of People — and from the sound of it, they’re going back to their more raw roots. In interviews leading up to the album’s release, they’ve called Birds a “back-to-basics” record (SAY!), dedicated to “darkness” and “vulnerability,” which are also words I’d use to describe the current political climate. And my love life!

I’m aching for some dark and dismal. Because I feel like the musical landscape of late has been incredibly happy and shiny and poppy. Everybody’s fronting all the time, dancing as fast as they can, smiling as hard as they can, working on their brand. Nobody ever says, ‘Actually, I’m lost and I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing with the rest of my life and I’m frightened.’

Wow at that last line. What a subtweet. Fucking @ me next time, Shirley.

True to form, the crashing ode to insecurity cuts deep from the very first line: “I’ve been feeling so frustrated / I’ll never be as great as I want to be,” Shirley laments.

The soaring angst of the chorus (“I’m…so…empty!“) captures that signature Garbage knack for secretly massive pop hooks within all the whining guitars and pounding drums. They’re bringing on the late ’90s “Only Happy When It Rains” nostalgia, while still feeling fresh — especially at a time when nothing sounds like this at all on Top 40 radio.

It’s a very good, very gritty, very grim way to start…and that’s exactly how I like my Garbage served best.

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