Garbage - Tell Me Where it Hurts

Bill Cummings 19/07/2007

Rating: 1.5/5

“Tell Me Where It Hurts” In my middle ear doctor, quick switch it off! Yes it's the return of flame haired Scottish siren Shirley Manson, and her pop/rock-backing band of (bunch of old men)Butch Vig and co. At their best Garbage weren't a bad little act, emerging amidst the pre Brit pop melee, Manson's vaguely angsty vocals, topped off nicely with an up-tempo synthetic rock sound that threw as many hopeful inoffensive hooks onto a wall as is possible in a three minute single. Take their best song, “Stupid Girl,” with that clicking beat and slide rule riff, its tale of destructivity: casually built up into a sneering pop beast. But often their mix of pop and rock, over tipped the balance into indulgence and over commerciality. Take the silly Garbage by numbers rocker of “Push It,” and the over wrought strings of bond theme “The World is Not Enough.” But Manson's attitude clearly hit a nerve with many females seeking icons of empowerment in a confusing post feminist culture; she was promptly ushered into the lobby marked “opinionated rock vixen” along with Elastica's Justine, and Louise from Sleeper.

“Tell Me Where It Hurts” is predictably bland, taking the “The World Is Not Enough” template of mildly diverting strings and hooks, and reassembling them for their latest chart attempt. Lyrically this is as hackneyed as it gets, obviously a song about comforting a loved one, it is littered with crushing ironies in each painful stanza (“They don't like me/I can tell/You do so they can go to hell.”) while Manson's voice sounds awfully pale now, in a environment that's given us the all out balls of Beth Ditto and the subtle rage of P J Harvey. Meanwhile, the soundscape is over sanitized, the production so overtly pop that any semblance of melody is strangled at birth. It's not that rock music can't use strings to successful effect, indeed listen to McAlmont and Butler's “Yes,” a superb example of uplifting strings, and a gloriously bittersweet melody in a pop song.
This new single is clearly an advertising vehicle for the band's new greatest hits compilation “Absolute Garbage.” In fact this slab of substandard pop screams “HEY LOOK IT'S US GARBAGE ACTUALLY, WE HAVEN'T SPLIT UP YET, BUY OUR GREATEST HITS ALBUM” worse still it sounds like a poor Texas single, which for Shirley and Butch is probably the ultimate insult.