- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

By the fall of 2003, it seemed as if nothing else could go wrong for Garbage.

The foursome was drained from a trying world tour. Lead singer Shirley Manson lost her voice. Drummer and acclaimed producer Butch Vig was recovering from a serious illness. The group’s third album, “Beautifulgarbage,” had been released — and subsequently lost — amid the chaos and tragedy surrounding September 11.

Writer’s block and bickering ensued. The band unofficially broke up and dropped out of sight.

Garbage, a true electro-grunge force of the 1990s, had hit rock bottom.

Now, after four years without a new release (and much to the relief of its legions of fans worldwide), Garbage is back with a new CD, “Bleed Like Me,” and an American club tour that promises a blend of hard-rock magic and intimacy.

“I feel like we’re back from the dead,” Mr. Vig says by phone in a relaxed late-morning drawl, still drinking coffee in bed before beginning the European leg of the band’s tour. “We’ve resurrected ourselves.”

They have, indeed. With a new single on the airwaves (“Why Do You Love Me?”) and sold-out shows in city after city — including tonight’s sold-out concert at the 9:30 Club — Garbage is back in a big way.

Mr. Vig, the mastermind behind Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” couldn’t be happier.

“I think we’ve made the most vital-sounding record of our career,” he says. “It sounds more cohesive and more like we do onstage. It’s basically a loud rock record, but I think it’s also the best batch of lyrics that Shirley’s ever written and much more topical, socially and politically.”

Many of the tracks on “Bleed Like Me” trace the uncertainties of a post-September 11 world. The lyrics, all written by Miss Manson, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, offer biting commentary on government, war and the media.

“What happened when we bottomed out in October 2003 is that we came back and really raised the bar,” Mr. Vig explains.

“I think we felt after all [the] looking in the mirror at ourselves and trying to question whether Garbage was worth going on, that we need to put aside some of our petty differences, the fighting and ego problems, and just try and communicate about the music. The energy level just got kicked up several notches, and you can really hear that in the playing.”

Overall, the band traded in its hallmark techno-rock sound, heard in previous hits such as “Only Happy When It Rains” and “I Think I’m Paranoid,” opting instead for guitars and drums on “Bleed Like Me.”

“Bad Boyfriend,” the album’s first track, which features ex-Nirvana member and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums, bursts forth like an animal fresh from the zoo, complete with razor-sharp guitars and sneering to spare. On the other hand, “Run Baby Run,” the following track, might just be your windows-open, wind-in-your-hair summer rock anthem.

“We’re hoping that not just the hard-core fans, but young fans will dig this record,” Mr. Vig says. “Maybe some of the kids who in the last couple years were into Britney Spears are sick of that now and they wanna hear some obnoxious guitar.

“There’s a lot of love for the band right now, which is great to see because we literally fell off the Earth,” he adds. “I think everyone thought we were dead. No one was expecting anything, and I think everyone’s been pleasantly surprised.”

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