Recently, Garbage announced a contest in collaboration with Beatport to remix “Automatic Systematic Habit” from their first record in seven years, Not Your Kind of People. During the time of the albums release, 2020k was unable to give the project a proper review because of alternate artistic endeavors, but has decided to touch upon it and display his own remix of the song!
Click here to take a listen to “Automatic Systematic Habit (2020k Remix)” by Garbage and take a second to log into your Beatport account to vote for the mix! Deadline for voting is October 23rd, 2012.
2020k on the track: “Automatic Systematic Habit (2020k Remix)” is a work of art inspired by the Garbage track of the same name from their record “Not Your Kind of People”. The album inspired several instances throughout the track, including the Remixes opening voicemail lines. A work of labor and love, the 2020k remix hopes to bring in a fresh, personal and alternate perspective to the aggressive arrangement originally put together by Garbage, while remaining true to its original intent.
That being said, this review is a collaboration article between 2020k and Open ‘Til Midnight. You can read the full, unabridged text from Amber Waves via this article. Our words are in our standard text color, while Amber goes blue.
Driving right in: For the technical aspects of Not Your Kind of People, Garbage goes for an aggressive approach to mastering. According to the TT Loudness Meter the album ranks under an average dynamic range of 5dB (although the vinyl pressing of the record shows a world of difference in range levels). In fact, the highest average bit of dynamic range on the entire record reads at about 6dB.
It’s noteworthy that save for their debut, Garbage has always been a bit loud and fill their records with enough angst that its sound isn’t perceived as loud for the sake of being loud, but a bit noisier to maintain their emotional drive behind the angst driven records the grunge titans have come to be about. Is this the best mixed album of 2012? No. But, is it alright sounding? Yes. While the sonics never stop their assault, it doesn’t seem like there’s much unwanted, audible distortion.
The best display of this hot mixing technique comes with the debut UK single of the record, “Battle In Me”. Its punctuating riff-stops evoke “Supervixen”, a tune that remains one of the band’s very best creations. Sexual magnetism churns and boils over in this track, complete with military-esque drums and shameless lyrics, making for a strong track that highlights the album. “Let’s take a torch to the past and the future/Let’s make out/I won’t tell your girlfriend.” Well Shirley, if you insist… – “Battle In Me” is the most rebellious track on the record, a fully produced force that builds from minimal vocal and electronic effects, that fall beneath Manson’s strong vocals. “It takes a lot to shake me,” Shirley laments, but by the time the chorus builds to its triumphant warrior-esque approach to song structure, it’s layers upon layers of guitars, mixed with semi-distorted vocals and pounding percussive elements, the excitement is through the roof.
Upon listen after listen of Not Your Kind Of People, it’s apparent that production value was a huge part of what went into this record and what made it fun. On “Automatic Systematic Habit,” the album’s opener, front woman and lead vocalist Shirley Manson’s vocals contain delays, reverberation, vocoder effected, filtered, and enough stereo buffer sounding effects on the dry vocal, as well as the wet tracks as well that the robotic (or systematic) feel to the song is heard instantly. This technique is also heavily used on “The One”.
Interestingly enough, Shirley’s vocal lines aren’t at the forefront of this mix for the most part of the song’s duration. In fact, it’s the dense guitar tracks that take center stage. It’s not only the album’s opening track that takes this approach, but the majority of the album. It works to a positive effect, giving Not Your Kind of People more of a band feel as opposed to what could have been done instead and what sometimes is done on band records (giving the vocalist the shine, while the band plays background).
“Man on a Wire” – A brilliant, addictive riff that reminds me of the hip-grooving riff of Finger Eleven’s “Good Times” draws the listener to the full-out rocker chorus on this tune, inspired by the documentary Man On Wire, the tale of a man who tightrope walked illegally between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The song transcends into a “Screw the world, you can’t stop me” anthem to sing loudly with, a working-class battle cry against the powerful doubters looking down upon them. Delicious!
“Control” – Oh my God, this is pure sex. Sonic Tupelo honey with the gritty seething anger Shirley conjures so well makes for a stunner of tune. There’s a true sense of madness here, a journey down a very bad rabbit hole, hurtling towards the bottom without a hope in hell of survival. “Drown us with the burdens of our sins/Maybe I’ll look you in the eye, tell you, ‘You don’t want to die’/Maybe I’ll hold my breath and jump right in.” These are some of the best lyrics the band’s ever delivered, and I will be playing this one repeatedly in days to come. For anyone concerned that the darkness of their earlier work was long gone, fear not: it’s here. Come lose control.
While the quieter tracks may ask some to lose control, they certainly contain more of the shining moments on the sixth studio album by the band. “Big Bright World” recalls mature/electro-pop excellence, while “Felt” supplies more of a soundscape for the dream pop world to live inside. Elements of electronic music are infused with pop influences throughout the entire album’s run and they’re definitely translated well into the body of work this collective has released over the years.
The Deluxe Edition of Not Your Kind of People offers four extra tracks that are absolute perfection and should have remained on the standard edition of the album.
“What Girls Are Made Of” teeters through a lone opening of a kick and snare sample, with live guitar instrumentation. Feminist lyricism such as “We can bleed for a whole week straight every month and the pain doesn’t phase us” throw themselves unapologetically into the opening lines of the track, before a breakdown explodes into a mad yell “Haven’t you heard I let you off with murder? ..And I’ve been drinking again. It helps to block you out cause if I stop to think, I swear I’ll lose it.” While it’s definitely a geared more toward a female empowerment anthem, post-stressful event involving intimate human interaction, it’s point is certainly relatable all around. At the mid-way point, things calm down with a simple melody where all of the songs parts seemingly follow each other for a few bars, before breaking off into their own respective elements and disintegrate into the track’s chorus.
“Bright Tonight” recalls the 90’s and something The Smashing Pumpkins would stumble upon. In fact, that’s not the only portion of the Garbage record that conjures up Billy Corgan. The Title track does as well. Although, different. It’s slow, meandering melody carries us into the album’s namesake, and I confess that I’m a little bored by this tune. This one’s b-side material at best: the lyrics are immature and Smashing Pumpkins captured this sort of vibe better in their track “We Only Come Out At Night”. Were this an instrumental piece, I feel it might work better, and perhaps Shirley forced lyrics onto this one to fit a sprawling melody no one wished to discard. This almost encroaches into M83 or Explosions In The Sky Territory, or perhaps Stars, if the words are set aside. Passable, but brought down by the attempt at an anthem for the band and their ‘darklings’.
All in all, do Garbage still have what made them trailblazers in the 90s?
Happily, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. While it’s crucial to note that the band explicitly set out not to evolve but rather return to their roots, this doesn’t make the endeavor unimpressive. The Garbage sound still holds up as ever, pushing grunge and pop into a fusion dashed with electronic play. Mercifully, the album steers away from hit-and-miss album Beautiful Garbage‘s overly saccharine zone, returning instead to their self-titled debut with the informed restraint of Bleed Like Me. The result is a solid album that fits well within the catalogue, and while it may not outshineGarbage or Version 2.0, it holds its own quite nicely with its older musical siblings. It also soars and pulses with that irresistible vibe of the “perfect roadtrip album”, making it a great choice for a late Spring/Summer release. The mixing leaves a little to be desired in places, however, which pulls the album away from perfection.
In true Garbage style, the gang has showed us they can progress through the stages of their respective careers and still come together to release a record that’s cohesive, heavy, and unique. Though Not Your Kind Of People does suffer in places, it’s still an album worth having in your 2012 collection.
Amber’s album rating: A
2020k’s album rating: 3.5/5
To read the unabridged version of Open ‘Til Midnight’s review of Not Your Kind of People please click here
CLICK HERE TO STREAM AND VOTE FOR THE 2020k REMIX OF “AUTOMATIC SYSTEMATIC HABIT” IN COLLABORATION WITH THE BEATPORT COMPETITION.