Shirley, Butch and the boys' finest moments in one easy to handle package.
Jaime Gill 2007
Difficult to remember now just how oddly perfect Garbage seemed when they burst from left field on the Britpop scene of 1995. While Britpop was overwhelmingly male and retro, Garbage were brazenly modernist and in Shirley Manson boasted an impassioned and very female icon. Debut “Vow” was a buzz-saw riffed statement of intent, but it was “Queer” – with its loops and fluid rhythm – that proved just how sonically interesting and fully-formed they were.
That Garbage had in fact borrowed much of their sound (dense, swampy electronic production, topped off with sugar and spite vocals) from the extraordinary but commercially unsuccessful duo Curve didn’t greatly matter. Their self-titled debut was a terrific collection of angry/seductive future-rock songs, mostly skewering male arrogance, while in the slinkily addictive “Stupid Girl” it boasted an international hit.
Second album, the wryly titled Version 2.0, lacked the element of surprise but demonstrated tighter songwriting. Both “Push It” and “I Think I’m Paranoid” showcased gleaming riffs and a bustlingly modern pace, as well as Manson at her most forceful and domineering. Fans of the band’s poppier side were catered for by the fierce but melodically lush “Special”. Sadly, Garbage ignored the curse of Bond and – like Duran Duran and Aha before them – their trajectory dipped after contributing the lacklustre, atonal “The World Is Not Enough” to the film of that name.
Third album “beautifulgarbage” saw them attempting to escape a sound that was becoming a straitjacket, but the addictive, ultra-poppy “Cherry Lips” aside, it was unfocused and occasionally lifeless. Wisely, drab second single “Breaking Up The Girl” isn’t included here. And while 2005 comeback single “Why Don’t You Love Me?” had some of the old pace and bile, it was a blatant retread of their earlier sound. Garbage were no longer pioneers.
The band are now rumoured to have split, though the epic, string-soaked new track “Tell Me Where It Hurts” suggests there might still be blood in the stone should Manson’s solo career stiff. If not, Absolute Garbage is a fine legacy, the sound of a briefly brilliant and always interesting band which sounds like no other greatest hits you own.