Friday, May 20th, 2016

Garbage – Empty

That feeling when both the artist and song name sum up your last semester of college :(


Katherine St Asaph: There’s no way the rich, eerily Tori-esque part of Shirley Manson’s voice is new, but it’s welcome to notice. The rest — the pleading/steely processing on the bridge especially, and the #1 crushstuff — I’m near-physiologically unable not to love.

Jer Fairall: I revisited Version 2.0 not long ago, and it remains as solid a set of songs as any one-trick-pony band gifted with a fantastic vocalist has ever tripped over. If it is the Pretenders-quoting “Special” that I remain most fixated on, though, blame my insistence that Shirley Manson displays all the marks of a performer capable of Chrissie Hynde’s level of emotional range but remains tied to an outfit that whose status as alt.rock elder states-persons ensures that they remain, in their third decade, ironically risk-adverse in their insistence upon formula. “Empty” is every bit tuneful and well-crafted as I would have expected, and I will have forgotten it minutes after I finish typing this. 

Alfred Soto: “Feelin’ so frustrated/I’ll never be as great as I wanna be,” Shirley Manson moans over post-’90s grind-guitar, and I feel her pain. Eighteen years after delivering modern rock’s only answer to Parallel Lines, she and her ugly mates have shuffled from context to context like vagrants in alleys. In 1998 they amalgamated several decades of pop; in 2016 they amalgamate the amalgam and dare you to call them empty because they beat you to it. The “oh all I talk about hook” buttressed with synth strings is their most inventive moment since the middle eight in “Cherry Lips (Go, Baby Go!).”

Cassy Gress: I’m irrationally disappointed that Shirley Manson doesn’t sound quite as impudent as she did when I was 12 and I thought she was one of the coolest women on the planet. She’s got a more Gwen-like vibrato to her voice now. I also get fed up with lyricists who don’t ensure that the words match the rhythmic flow; there’s always another way to say something, and “good THINGS come TO those WHO wait” is bizarre. This chorus is jacked straight out of 1998 though, particularly that slithery doubled guitar line, so it’s ringing nostalgia bells all over the place for me; “about, about, oh oh, about, about” unfortunately also reminds me of the stupider parts of 1998.

Ryo Miyauchi: Nineties nostalgia has turned more to Butch Vig’s slicker take on grunge and his wall-of-sound production, so “Empty” fits into place better than Garbage’s last effort in 2012. They get back to basics by focusing less on electronic beats for spectacle. The band, in turn, becomes more anonymous, and Shirley Manson’s one-size-fits-all brand of ennui doesn’t help. But it’s a welcome move. All I want whenever I return to their debut are oversized riffs and Manson snarling a mean chorus anyway.

Thomas Inskeep: Garbage return, the world has moved on. Shirley Manson sounds, sadly, like a tiger who’s been declawed.

Brad Shoup: Now the stuffiness sounds like shoegaze, and Manson worries the word “about” until she sounds like Gwen Stefani. Both approaches are tossed for the bridge: her vocal is slathered in noob processing, unable to reach the suddenly meaty riff.

Jibril Yassin: Those Drop D chord sequences had me worried this would take us head-first into the worst parts of the post-grunge years but there’s a pop heart underneath all the cybernetic, industrial barrage. There’s a galvanizing darkness to “Empty” that even those synths can’t seem to punch through. 

Edward Okulicz: For all the talk that every song/album is a RETURN! TO! THEIR! ROOTS! this is still more lo-fi than even the debut’s most basic track and is much the same as one of the charmless rockers on their last two albums. Of course, it’s easier to hear the power and character of Shirley Manson’s voice, but Garbage have never been the great rock band they dreamed of before they even were a rock band. Give or take “Sex Is Not The Enemy” this is probably the worst single by a band I take as a sentimental favourite on the basis of those first three shiny pop records.

Reader average: [8.75] (4 votes)

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2 Responses to “Garbage – Empty”

  1. As a just-finished grad, I sooo feel the description of this song.

  2. All I could ever want from Garbage canalized into one single. I think it’s brilliant.