Bleed Like Me

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Bleed Like Me
A collage of red plaster pieces stapled over a gray background, on which the words "Garbage" and "Bleed Like Me" are stamped.
Studio album by Garbage
Released April 11, 2005
Recorded March 2003 – December 2004,
Smart Studios (Madison),
Sound City, The Boat, and Grungeisdead(Los Angeles, California)
Genre Alternative rock,[1] post-grunge,[1] electronic rock[2]
Length 47:32
Label A&E, Geffen (North America)
Producer Garbage, John King
Garbage chronology
Special Collection
(2002)
Bleed Like Me
(2005)
Absolute Garbage
(2007)
Singles from Bleed Like Me
  1. "Why Do You Love Me"
    Released: April 4, 2005
  2. "Bleed Like Me"
    Released: May 3, 2005
  3. "Sex Is Not the Enemy"
    Released: June 13, 2005
  4. "Run Baby Run"
    Released: July 10, 2005

Bleed Like Me is the fourth studio album recorded and produced by alternative rock group Garbage. It was released on April 11, 2005 by Universal Music Group label Geffen in North America and by Warner Bros. Records in other territories. The group chose a straight rock sound reminiscent of Garbage's live performances instead of the electronica that permeated the previous album, Beautiful Garbage (2001).

The first recording sessions for Bleed Like Me took place in March 2003, but were mostly unproductive due to passive aggression between the band members, and a general lack of direction. As Garbage struggled to create the album, the band quietly split for four months starting October 2003. They reunited under producer John King in Los Angeles, and following a guest appearance by Dave Grohl on "Bad Boyfriend", the band found a renewed focus on production. Garbage recruited drummer Matt Walker and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen for new recording sessions, and completed the album by the end of 2004.

Following critical praise and high chart positions for its lead single "Why Do You Love Me", Bleed Like Me had a strong opening week globally, debuting in the top five in eight countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Reviews were mixed to positive, and critics complimented the new sound but found the album inconsistent and at times outdated.

Background[edit]

Garbage's third album, Beautiful Garbage, had been promoted by a fourteen-month world tour, which culminated in a run of North American shows co-headlined with No Doubt and supported by The Distillers in October and November 2002.[3] Before the tour started, the band spent two weeks in Smart Studios—their recording studio in Madison, Wisconsin—to write new material for their upcoming album.[4] Upon completion of the tour in December 2002, the group took some time off; Shirley Manson returned to her native Scotland, while Butch Vig completed production work on albums by AFI and Jessy Moss. The band regrouped in February 2003 to perform "Pride (In the Name of Love)" at a MusiCares tribute to U2 frontman Bono. Immediately after the event, they returned to Madison to continue working on their follow-up record.[5]

Recording and production[edit]

Initial recording and band breakdown[edit]

On the first day in the studio, Garbage composed a new track, "Right Between the Eyes", in thirty minutes.[6] Other tracks written during the early sessions were "Hangin' with the Bitches"[3] and "Never Be Free" (with John 5).[7] Vig said that the quick start made the band feel optimistic and gave the impression that the album would be completed as rapidly as in six months, but "[the album] took a slow spiral downhill".[5] Recording for the album was halted during the summer when Manson underwent surgery to remove a cyst on her right vocal cord, forcing her to recuperate until August 2003.[8] On September 10, a backhoe careened into the outer walls of Smart Studios, causing extensive damage. Both Garbage and the band Paris, Texas had been working on their albums.[9] The sessions were permeated by passive-aggressive tensions and an overall lack of artistic focus. According to Vig, "there were a lot of personal arguments and we couldn't agree on songs". Manson suffered writer's block and had trouble writing lyrics, and Vig did not like the way the songs sounded.[10] The drummer said that the group frequently argued during production, and that the entire band almost quit.[11] Duke Erikson said that nobody could agree about the music's direction, and the band was on the verge of breaking up. He said, "when you lose that common bond of the music, you've got nothing".[6] Eventually, the group suffered "a complete and utter band meltdown" in October, leading the band members splitting and taking a break from the sessions.[12]

Vig left the studio and returned to Los Angeles. Over the Christmas period, he encountered excited Garbage fans eager to hear about the album's progress. Not wanting to disappoint them, he disclosed some song titles to them; after this encounter he realised that the band still had a future.[6] During the break, Vig met Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters in a party, and casually asked if he would drum on a Garbage track, "Bad Boyfriend", as Vig had been frustrated with the song's existing drum track.[13]

Dave Grohl playing drums.
The band credited the participation of Dave Grohl, who played drums in "Bad Boyfriend", as a motivator in getting the album finished.

Regrouping[edit]

At the beginning of 2004, the band decided to try to salvage the album, taking their management's suggestion to work with an external producer for the first time. The musicians also decided that neutral territory would be beneficial, and went to Los Angeles. Dust Brother John King was hired to produce "Bad Boyfriend",[6] "Space Can Come Through Anyone",[14] and "It's All Over But the Crying". Drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen were hired to perform on the songs.[15] The recordings were completed in King's studio The Boat and Sound City in Van Nuys.[16] Towards the end of the recording sessions, Grohl spent a day performing on drums for "Bad Boyfriend".[17] The band said his performance was "raising the bar" for the record,[6] and Vig said that Grohl "brought a different energy level to the song", which Erikson and Steve Marker tried to follow with their guitar playing. This influenced most of the songs that followed; the musicians wanted the songs to be "scrappy and primal sounding".[11]

The experience with King, despite only resulting in the completion of one track, "Bad Boyfriend", gave the band perspective and direction.[6] Manson said that because the band members still had problems speaking to each other, King could not get much work out of the band, so they realized that they needed to work out their differences and was the catalyst for the band getting back together and working harmoniously.[5] Vig said that the tensions led the band members to become "burned out on each other", and that reuniting made them feel able to play "...fast and furious—as if our lives depended on it".[18] Manson overcame her writer's block and began to inject political slants into her lyrics, matching them with some new material the band wrote immediately after the King sessions; both "Metal Heart" and "Boys Wanna Fight" referenced the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Despite a plan to record some material with producer Tony Hoffer,[19] the band decided to complete the rest of the album themselves. Erikson later said, "It was kind of seductive to think that maybe someone else [would] solve all of our problems, but in the end you gotta do it yourself".[20]

Feeling that previous album Beautiful Garbage seemed fractured, the band decided to use their live sound; Vig said that he wanted "the pumping energy that all the best raw rock records have".[21] The band decided that their fourth album would have a straightforward rock sound, instead of a reliance upon electronica and computer interventions. The musicians composed separately at their home studios, sending each other tracks through e-mail and couriers, and the band returned to Wisconsin to finish the album. Bleed Like Me emerged from a collage of samples and loops, and this time the sound was simpler. Erikson said that rather than production, they depended on the songs.[6] Vig opted to focus on the production duties and leave the drums to guest musicians such as Grohl, whom he considered better at the instrument than him.[13][16] He also played more guitars on the album, which he found liberating.[16] As a result, drummer Matt Walker also played on several tracks on the album,[22] while Meldal-Johnsen played bass guitar.[23] Most of Manson's vocals were recorded at Vig's home studio, GrungeIsDead.[24]

On October 18, the band began mixing the album.[22] Some songs were mixed several times; "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was re-recorded three times during the mixing process, "Right Between the Eyes" was recalled from mastering twice,[25] and the band included live strings at the last minute on "Happy Home".[26] While the project's working title was Hands on a Hard Body, after the 1997 documentary of the same name,[27] when Manson announced the album's release in November 2004, she confirmed that it would be titled Bleed Like Me.[28] By December 6, 2004, the album was officially completed.[29] It was mastered in New York City;[29] the initial mastering was completed on December 15, 2004, and the final master was ready for January 6, 2005.[28]

Release[edit]

Bleed Like Me was released worldwide on April 11, selling 27,375 copies in its first week and debuting at number 4 on the UK Albums Chart.[30] The following day, the album arrived in North American stores, and also reached number 4 on the Billboard 200, becoming the band's first top ten album and selling 75,000 copies.[31] Bleed Like Me also debuted in the top ten in Australia, Greece, France, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, Belgium and Canada.[32] In its second week in the U.S., Bleed Like Me moved twenty places downward to number 24, on sales of 32,000.[33] By 2011, the album had sold 284,000 copies in North America.[34] On September 11, Festival Mushroom Records released a Bleed Like Me special edition with a bonus DVD for the Australian market.[35] The ARIA certified Bleed Like Me gold for shipping 35,000 units in its first three weeks.[36]

The album was preceded by lead single "Why Do You Love Me",[37] which peaked at number 7 in the UK Singles Chart —their highest charting single since 1996's "Stupid Girl"—[38] while also making the top ten of the Modern Rock Tracks in the United States,[39] and becoming their first single since 1999's "Special" to enter the Billboard Hot 100, at 97.[40]

Composition[edit]

"We've almost gone backwards in this album. It's getting us back to a more primal sound - guitars, bass, drums and Shirley's voice".

 —Butch Vig on the sound of Bleed Like Me[18]

Bleed Like Me is a departure from the heavily-electronic music of previous albums Version 2.0 and Beautiful Garbage in favor of a basic alternative rock sound. Vig said that while the band tried to figure out a new sound for the record, they "went back to getting great sounds from guitars". The band tried a more spontaneous approach; Manson did most of her singing in the first take and the drums were recorded in a way "that everything was not perfectly balanced—and not so electronic".[18] The band members tried to translate the energy of the band's live performances onto the album; Marker said that the album showed that above all, Garbage is "a loud rock band".[6] Vig still thought that some of the songs resembled the band's earlier material, such as "Metal Heart", with "a lot of weird electronics that Steve and Duke did, as well as some pretty gnarly guitar."[41]

The lyrics of Bleed Like Me talk about relationships and political themes; Manson said, "the last few years ... have been very worrying and you'd have to be dead to not have some kind of political view at the moment",[42] and that after many years being insecure about articulating her feelings writing lyrics,[20] the singer found herself confident that she could express her ideas and sentiment of being "very out of kilter with a lot of the common thoughts of today" in her music.[11] "Boys Wanna Fight" criticizes world affairs and "Sex Is Not the Enemy" is about moral guardians,[6] inspired by the outcry caused by Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.[43] The songs about relationships follow Manson's tendency to discuss dark topics and emotions; "Bleed Like Me" discusses problems with empathy and "Bad Boyfriend" is about "a predatory female meeting a predatory man".[42] The album closer "Happy Home" is about conflict within the band and in the wider world during production, the search of forgiveness, peace and coming to terms with one's place in a chaotic world.[11]

Promotional tour[edit]

Garbage performing in a stage.
Garbage performing in Copenhagen, 2005

Garbage launched the Bleed Like Me World Tour promoting the record on March 29, 2005, with a concert in Paris. The tour visited North America, Europe and Australia,[18] and encompassed headline performances, rock festivals, and television and radio shows.[16] Former Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery left Alanis Morissette's backing band to perform with Garbage for the tour.[44] Matt Walker played drums in the August 22 concert in Chicago because Vig had to depart for his mother's funeral.[45] After being initially organized low-key,[41] the tour was moved into large venues when Bleed Like Me and its lead single "Why Do You Love Me" became surprise hits outside the U.S.[18] In September, the band canceled concerts planned for the following month in Europe,[46] and released a press statement saying that the band members had overextended themselves.[47] The tour concluded with a concert in Perth, Australia on October 1, after six months of concerts.[48]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 56/100[49]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]
Entertainment Weekly B+[50]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[51]
Kerrang! 4/5 stars[52] April 9, 2005 04/09/2005
PopMatters 4/10 stars[53]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[54]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[55]
Slant 3.5/5 stars[2]
USA Today 3/4 stars[56]
Yahoo! Music UK 6/10 stars[57]

Bleed Like Me received mixed to positive reviews upon release. Review aggregator Metacritic reported a score of 56 based on 18 reviews.[49] Entertainment Weekly '​s Tom Sinclair rated the album a B+, complimenting the "humongous hooks",[50] and Kerrang! gave Bleed Like Me 4 out of 5, describing it as the "most exciting, touching, and most painfully human material they’ve put out in years".[52] Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke awarded the album three and a half stars out of five, writing that "the first two-thirds of Bleed Like Me is easily the best sustained run of studio Garbage since the opening half of their 1995 debut", but that the final tracks had "a sameness—a feeling of roaring in circles".[55] Sal Cinquemani of Slant also awarded it three and a half stars out of five; he praised the new sound and wrote that "a few of the songs ("Run Baby Run" and "Right Between the Eyes" in particular) have all the right ingredients but lack the venom present on the group's first two releases".[2] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic gave Bleed Like Me three stars out of five, writing that the album was enjoyable if outdated in its musical approach "as if the band doesn't quite know how to do anything else but sound like it's the heyday of post-grunge alt-rock."[1] This opinion was shared by Yahoo! Music's Sharon O’Connell, who wrote that despite the intelligent songs with expertise in "muscly, alt. rock lick or the bubblegum pop hook", Bleed Like Me "strikes a depressingly dated note".[57]

Writing for The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin said the album's lyrics lacked an emotional punch. He wrote stating that it "approaches a kind of shimmering technical perfection, but remains strangely, stubbornly uninvolving".[58] Betty Clarke of The Guardian wrote, "while Manson's changeling vocals are always worth listening to, Garbage's songs often aren't."[51] Philip Robertson of PopMatters awarded the album four out of ten, and said the music sounds manufactured in its too-polished manner, and that "much of what is brought to the fore on this latest musical foray is an earnest attempt at building on the marginal success of their previous power-pop/rock submissions."[53]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Garbage, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Bad Boyfriend"   3:46
2. "Run Baby Run"   3:58
3. "Right Between the Eyes"   3:55
4. "Why Do You Love Me"   3:54
5. "Bleed Like Me"   4:01
6. "Metal Heart"   3:59
7. "Sex Is Not the Enemy"   3:06
8. "It's All Over But the Crying"   4:39
9. "Boys Wanna Fight"   4:16
10. "Why Don't You Come Over"   3:25
11. "Happy Home"   6:00

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]