The Men Who Rule The World

Album: No Gods No Masters (2021)
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Songfacts®:

  • Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson isn't subtle on this one, coming in hot with the opening lines:

    The men who rule the world
    Have made a f--king mess


    Months after Garbage released their album Strange Little Birds in the summer of 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, winning the vote in the demographics of men, whites, and those older than 50, while losing in most other demos. His agenda included big tax breaks - especially for corporations and the rich - and a drawdown of environmental regulations. In this song, Manson shouts out her frustrations at him and other leaders motivated by money and self-preservation.
  • "The Men Who Rule the World" was released in March 2021 as the first single from Garbage's seventh album, No Gods No Masters, which they had nearly finished when the pandemic forced a lockdown in March 2020. They had to complete the album by file sharing, which was onerous and delayed the release, but they were thrilled with the results. "It was our way of trying to make sense of how f--king nuts the world is and the astounding chaos we find ourselves in," Shirley Manson said. "It's the record we felt that we had to make at this time."

    Remarkably, Garbage still had the same lineup from when they released their first album in 1995: Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker, and Duke Erikson. All of them play various instruments, with Vig doing most of the percussion.
  • The dense industrial sound is typical of Garbage, which will layer loops, keyboards, and guitars to create their backing tracks. Butch Vig has brought these sounds to his productions for Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth.
  • The third verse calls for a modern-day Noah's Ark:

    Now let's save all of the animals
    Let's save all the squid
    Let's load them onto the mothership with the elders and the kids


    Noah was saving the animals from a flood, but Garbage wants to get away from the political chaos and environmental destruction.
  • The animated video was directed by the artist Javi Miamor. While Trump is never mentioned in the lyric, he does show up in the video along with various demonic creatures and some phallic sculptures that get toppled.
  • Inspired by an interview George Clinton had just given Manson for her The Jump podcast, this song came late on in the recording sessions for No Gods No Masters. "I was buzzing," she recalled to The New Cue. "I was high as a kite. I got back to the studio and the band were working on this idea and just boom, I had this vision of a sci-fi modern-day Noah's Ark story inspired by George Clinton's P Funk Mothership. I just said to the band, 'I've got an idea.' And I went in and I put down the vocals almost exactly as you hear them now."

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