Having followed Garbage since it’s inception in 1993, it pains me to submit what you are about to read. Disappointingly, Bleed Like Me finds the band still heavily anesthetized from the medication of the imposed (recently and prematurely ended) four-year break. This album would have prospered best had it been the transitional release between 1998’s Version 2.0 and 2001’s Beautiful Garbage since it illustrates the stylistic stymie that Garbage has come to be known for. That is, if I thought it should have been released at all.

All at once the band aspires to infuse electronica-tinged beats, synths and sampling into its signature layers of lacquered pop-rock guitar distortion. Bleed Like Me lacks the ambition of the sparkling and overindulgent glam-guitar driven gusto of Beautiful Garbage as well as the immediate and sculptured catchiness of Version 2.0, which showcased tracks like “When I Grow Up” and “I Think I’m Paranoid,” instead yielding a retrogressive and prosaic sound that loses pliability with subsequent listening. Even the first single “Why Do You Love Me” is deflated by the brio of the album’s only redemptive tracks: “Metal Heart,” with its winsome gloom, and the concussive guitar caterwaul of “Why Don’t You Come Over.”

Furthermore, Shirley Manson’s songwriting is wrought with entirely too many clichés and her once equally slinky and honeyed vocals flex with limited range across the 11 tracks, doing little to augment Bleed Like Me. Lyrical content falls especially flat in songs with promising titles such as “Right Between The Eyes,” and “Sex Is Not The Enemy.” Too much of the album sounds too familiar. The track “It’s All Over But The Crying,” for instance, recycles “Cup of Coffee” on Beautiful Garbage and final track “Happy Home” is no match for previous album closers like “Milk” and “You Look So Fine.”

Meanwhile, could guest drummer Dave Grohl do for Bleed Like Me what he did for Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf? No. Granted, he only guest drums on the opening cut “Bad Boyfriend,” but he may as well not have. Speaking of folks formerly involved with Nirvana, after four albums Garbage guitarist Butch Vig (co-responsible for producing Nevermind) has sadly failed to help produce a masterpiece for his own band.

Having made music for a little over a decade, Garbage should have the commercially successful record they’ve been pining for, but at this point, I’m beginning to wish that the rumors of their break-up had been true. Way to break my heart Shirley & company.

[Jory Dominguez guesses he’s pretty different now, considering…]