Decrying injustice in a chaotic world, alt-rock mainstays Garbage blazed into the 2020s revitalized and pissed off with their seventh set, No Gods No Masters. Their most overtly political effort to date, the album takes a bold sociopolitical stance in the wake of global events from the years preceding its release, tackling everything from systemic racism and gender inequality to corporate greed and the struggles of the marginalized. From the outset, it's clear that the quartet are fed up, switching off their 2010s autopilot mode and cranking up the aggression for the throbbing digital-funk of "The Men Who Rule the World," a biting indictment that aims to smash the patriarchy. The pulsing "Godhead" takes a more explicit approach, venting frustration over society's centering on the male ego with colorful phallic imagery, which is then twisted through a Depeche Mode-meets-Peaches lens. "A Woman Destroyed" carries that fury to a logical conclusion with a theatrical revenge fantasy, which is layered with ominous atmospheric production and a pulsing industrial beat. Later, the rage morphs into hopeless desperation on the somber "Waiting for God," a haunting dirge that finds vocalist Shirley Manson praying for those affected by police brutality and discrimination. Wading through these tough topics, Manson -- her inimitable vocals as alluring, commanding, and threatening as ever -- is sure to tap into the personal side of things, offering unguarded moments of hard-earned wisdom that deal with self-doubt and failure (the frenetic, biographical "The Creeps"), atoning for past ills (the quintessentially "Garbage" standout "Wolves"), and being an eternal misfit (the sweeping, midtempo "Uncomfortably Me"). As No Gods No Masters draws to a close, Garbage deliver a hopeful anthem to the masses with the sparkling title track, a driving pop gem that echoes Missing Persons and Blondie. Atop the ever-reliable backing of Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker, Manson defiantly declares, "The future is mine just the same/No master or gods to obey." As a unit, Garbage haven't sounded this hungry and vital in over a decade; the fact that they've delivered such a statement nearly three decades into their careers makes it all the more impressive. No Gods No Masters is a highlight in their discography and one of their best works to date, a potent and outspoken dose of genre-blending artistry that confidently returns Garbage to their position as a band perpetually ahead of the curve.
No Gods No Masters Review
by Neil Z. Yeung