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Absolute Garbage (Special Edition)

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Album Review

Looking back, there is no band that sums up all the myriad '90s trends better than Garbage. They were led by alt-rock superproducer Butch Vig, the man responsible for the production on Nirvana's Nevermind, but he also helmed classics of the era for Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, and L7. They were a rock band that indulged in noise and rode a hard backbeat but they were about fluid textures — a move they learned from shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine and Curve — so they could ease into trip-hop when rockers started flirting with electronica. They were fronted by Shirley Manson, giving them an entryway not only to the countless Women in Rock pieces, but her Scottish heritage also gave Garbage a tenuous U.K. connection in the days of Brit-pop. They brushed against so many touchstones that they couldn't help but seem a little bit prefabricated, but their music was done with the sharp, crass calculation of a bunch of old studio pros and a singer who had been kicking around since the mid-'80s, when she was in British indie also-rans Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. Garbage knew how to make records that sounded good and sounded like the times, so when they had their big break they knew how to stay on the charts. And they did, riding the post-grunge wave into the 2000s with albums that charted progressively higher, but not longer, than each previous record, while each new single showed up on many different charts without staying around on the radio as long as those first few hits from their eponymous 1995 debut. In other words, like lots of post-grunge alt-rock bands. they wound up being a one-album wonder with a couple of almost-hits to their credit after the first blockbuster, as the 2007 compilation Absolute Garbage makes clear. Spanning an overly generous 18 tracks — supplemented on the Deluxe Edition in true '90s fashion with a 13-track bonus remix disc — Absolute Garbage runs through all the U.S. radio hits and a good selection of international singles, skipping such latter-day singles as "Androgyny," "Breaking Up the Girl," "Run Baby Run," and "Sex Is Not the Enemy." By the time the compilation draws to its close nit-picking over such omissions seems pointless, since it already seems that the comp has lingered far longer than necessary on the last stage of Garbage's career, erasing the memories of sexy, hooky singles "Vow," "Queer," "Only Happy When It Rains," and "Stupid Girl," all arriving on the debut and all still sounding sleek and alluring. Which, of course, is kind of the story of their career: they made a big impact at first, but then their studio professionalism overtook their pop instincts. They were still often gripping at a sheer sonic level — Shirley Manson was a compelling, dynamic performer and Vig and his cohorts surely could construct a fantastic-sounding record. A few more of those moments could have been captured here. [A Deluxe Edition of the CD was also released.]

Customer Reviews


Garbage has to be the most experimental band of the late 90s early 2000s... from the grunge roots of Queer, Vow and Stupid Girl to the eclectic moods of Shut Your Mouth, Cherry Lips and Why do you Love Me, this band has done it all. They made chick rock more than being angry at men and actually made it fun and accessible. Selling over 13million records they are still one of the best bands of all time! The second disc is full of some of the best remixes done for the band. Top album tracks: disc 1: Why Do You Love Me, Only Happy When It Rains, Tell Me Where it Hurts, Cherry Lips disc 2: Bad Boyfriend (Garbage remix), Milk (Massive Attack), I Think I'm Paranoid (Crystal Method)


Formed: 1993 in Madison, WI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Garbage built on the sonic landscapes of My Bloody Valentine, Curve, and Sonic Youth, adding a distinct sense of accessible pop songcraft. The band was the brainchild of producers Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker, who initially held an informal jam session in Marker's basement, but they eventually recruited vocalist Shirley Manson, who had previously sung with Angelfish and Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie. Vig is a native of Viroqua, Wisconsin, who learned to play piano as a child and drums as a...
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