Sound: From the seductive growl of Shirley Manson to the electronic-driven beats of Butch Vig, Garbage has always been one of those bands that has exuded, for lack of a better word, coolness. It's exactly that cool vibe that made them a buzz band in the late '90s and an enduring name post-2000. Now after over a decade together, the band has gathered 18 songs together on a best-of compilation called Absolute Garbage. While the 1st half is filled with the more memorable hits like Only Happy When It Rains, the material as a whole is a fantastic glimpse at Garbage's career.
While some may have been unsure why Butch Vig decided to take a break from just producing and return to the scene as a drummer, it's probably not wise to doubt the man behind such classics as Nevermind and Siamese Dream. When he entered on the scene in Garbage, it was a huge leap in a different direction. Sure, the production value was a little over-the-top and synthesized for fans of the grunge era, but what Vig created was an impressive lineup that didn't sound like much else out there. With the release of Absolute Garbage, the CD perfectly reflects the intrigue behind Garbage and proves to naysayers that the band has had one hell of a career.
All the hits are on the CD -- from Stupid Girl and I Think I'm Paranoid to Vow and #1 Crush. It's songs like #1 Crush that stand out, primarily because of Manson's stalker-like delivery and fascinating trip-hop beats. For die-hard Garbage fans that have every CD in the band's catalog, the compilation might be useless because it does only have one new song. The track Tell Me Where It Hurts is the only completely original offering, and it seems like the band has softened it's edge a bit with it. That's a bit of a disappointment in itself if you like the darker side of Garbage, but it's very possible that the band still has something wicked awaiting us in the future.
There was a period around 2001 that the band didn't quite connect with US audiences, and those songs are represented as well on the compilation. Despite it failing to find a place on the US charts, Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go) is one of the most distinctive tracks on Absolute Garbage. Manson sounds entirely different, almost taking on a Gwen Stefani vocal style during the song. It's definitely a step away from the usual Garbage sound and if it does anything, it proves the band can explore new styles. // 9
Lyrics: Shirley Manson has an unbelievable way of selling her lyrics. As intriguing as the music behind it all, the lyrics just pop to the front when Manson delivers them in her own unique way. The words never get too complicated, but they are emotion-driven, which can connect with audiences more usually than a literary masterpiece. Whether it's #1 Crush, borders on being a love letter from a stalker, or Queer, which basically screws with a boy's mind, Garbage's lyrics have a dangerously alluring quality. // 9
Overall Impression: Just as interesting as the music on Absolute Garbage is the biography/retrospective written by Peter S. Murphy. He has some truly original observations -- from his description of the album Version 2.0 sounding like a flesh and blood rock band wearing a metal exo-skeleton to calling Manson a red-haired, kohl-eyed slink with lethal heels. Aside from just observations, he provides an in-depth biography of Garbage and it's music.
If you've been a fan of Garbage's singles, then Absolute Garbage will not leave you feeling short-changed. There are enough songs, both new and old, on the compilation that may just tempt singles-only fans to go out and purchase some of the band's earlier records. And while the new single just doesn't have the dark, brooding, classic Garbage feel, it's hard not to respect a band that has the guts to try something different. // 9