It’s 21 years since the release of Garbage, a treasure chest of irresistibly schlocky, digitally warped pop-grunge manifestos for the defiantly damaged. Singer Shirley Manson has claimed this sixth album is a kindred spirit to that debut, but instead it encapsulates the problem for reforming 1990s bands: you can’t go back, and going forward is even harder. Garbage’s sound is a tricky reupholstering job, their brand of angst period-passe, and Strange Little Birds searches sluggishly for the right tone, dreamy moments of trip-hop slink and flickers of brutal noise offering only fleeting hope. There’s plenty of build – see the coiling, gothic tension of Blackout – but little release, and a lack of those big, punchy choruses that were their strongest suit. Only Empty and So We Can Stay Alive hit old heights, and not hard enough.
Emily is a subeditor for the Observer and writes about music. Twitter: @EmilyRoseMackay