Geffen Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Hi, I'm Sean McCarthy. I had an order for the Italan beef pastrami sandwich, the works and hot peppers. Yes, I'd like to change that order -- instead I'll have the crow special. Make it a large, please.

Goddammit, I hate it when I misjudge a band. It was 1994 and I was getting sick of the "alternative album of the week" that was being played on our radio stations three times an hour. Better Than Ezra, Dig, Love Spit Love, and the worst offenders, Bush, was just about to break out. Two other artists that I wrote off, Radiohead and Garbage, came out with their releases around this time. Well, Radiohead blew me away with their two later albums. And Garbage, well, I was apprehensive about Garbage. They "sounded" like an alternative paint-by-numbers band. Worse, they were a supergroup! A modern day Asia came to mind.

Thank god for roommates. My roommate brought this CD home and we proceeded to listen to it one Saturday night after "The Young Ones" aired on Comedy Central. With several rum and cokes and even more beer in me, I was forced to listen to the entire album because I had no motivation to do anything else. Sober or not, Garbage rocks.

It shouldn't have. Shirley Manson has a siren like voice that fits in well with the current batch of pissed off female rockers, drummer Butch Vig produced two of the seminal alternative albums of this decade -- Nirvana's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream -- and the band got signed to a label practically before doing a few gigs. The album seemed to be David Geffen's wet dream. What is truely unique about the album is that despite all the marketing potential, the band actually delievers the goods musically.

"Supervixen", "My Lover's Box" and "As Heaven Is Wide" all have a rock star feel to them. As Manson croons "Bow down to me," Vig layers the guitars on heavy. Garbage has the feel of a supergroup, but at least they have the skills to back them up. Duke Erickson and Steve Marker give a towering display of guitar virtusoity. Marker also plays bass.

Nihilism has rarely sounded as sweet as it does in "Not My Idea" and "Vow." While a lot of bands were reveling in their self pity and squalling feedback, Garbage produces some tight rhythms. Manson's no bullshit lyrics:"I've come to shut you up, I've come to suck you down, I've come to tear your little world apart..break your soul apart" speak volumes.

The song that really hooked me was "Stupid Girl." Hooking you with a clever sample of the Clash's "Train in Vain," endless loops, abrasive guitars of course, Manson's voice produce a truly intoxicating mix. The moodiness of the lyrics only strengthens the quality of the song. It's no surprise that Garbage is one of those albums that has landed on the remix floor at disco clubs as often as more techno-oriented albums like Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land.

The more subtle arrangements of Garbage are on the last three songs. "Milk," the last song features some sparse percussion, a few FX features but the attention is fixed on Manson's voice. Manson winds up running the show throughout Garbage. As a member of a few failed bands in Scotland, she was recruited to be the vocalist of Garbage. Neither a flaunting sex object nor a rabid feminist, Manson refuses to be catagorized.

Since most of the band has been in the music industry for several years, Garbage lacks the ambition to be "the" band of the 1990s. Instead, their laid back attitudes seem to be focused on geling as a group. Sober or not, Garbage is an engaging listen, as I said before. If you feel like shaking your groove thing, but can't handle the sunny lyrics of Hanson or the Spice Girls, request a remix of one of Garbage's songs. For the unitiated fan, make a couple of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and cokes, kick back and listen to Garbage....and wait for their new album to come out.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.