After an ill-advised foray into overproduced dance rock on 2012’s “Not Your Kind of People,” Garbage returns to its original pop-grunge formula on “Strange Little Birds” — but darkly. Rather than poking fun at her own sadness or anger, singer Shirley Manson drones about self-doubt over some of the creepiest synth sounds the band has employed to date. Lead single “Empty” initially sounds like one more tongue in cheek track that fits in with previous hits, but Manson’s showing vulnerability (“I’ve been feeling so frustrated/ I’ll never be as great as I want to be”); sawing synths on the chorus suit the album’s morose soundscape. “Sometimes,” a ballad about being beaten down, juxtaposes harsh, wobbling synths and drums with lo-fi piano and strings, setting up the similarly Nine Inch Nails-esque “If I Lost You” and would-be X-Files theme “Night Drive Loneliness.” Re-examining its signature brat rock through an industrial prism, Garbage forges something more haunting and honest.
ESSENTIAL “Night Drive Loneliness”
Garbage performs at the House of Blues July 28.John Paul Stapleton can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnP_Stapleton