Sound: When I submit a review I usually start by categorizing the artist. The problem with categorizing Garbage though, is they don't fit in anywhere. I'd call them anything from post-grunge, punk, pop, trip-hop, and they even hint at hard rock; all this is damned near perfectly mixed into a tasty alternative stew of noise and raw emotions on their self titled first alubum(released in 1995).
The group's drummer Butch Vig was already very well known in the music buisness at the time of Garbage's formation for production work with the bands Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, among others. In the early/mid 90s, after he had already made a name for himself in the music business, he got together with fellow producers and former band members Steve Marker and Duke Erikson to form a new band. They lacked a singer, however, and one night Marker was watching MTV's 120 Minutes and saw a video for the Scottish band Angelfish with Shirley Manson on lead vocals. The guys met up with her, and after finding out they shared similar taste in music, Manson left Angelfish and joined Garbage.
The sound, as I said before, is a mixture of just about everything from grunge to pop. The music comes out as something completely original, different, and even haunting when Manson's sultry contralto vocals blend with the band's eerie-sounding guitars and synthesizers. Most of the music on this record is amazing, ranging from simple to complex, and though there are a few misses here and there throughout, it's mostly dead-on hits. This is an amazing album, a top ten best of the 90s in my opinion. // 9
Lyrics: 01."Supervixen": the last chorus goes: "And I'll feed your obsession/the falling star that you cannot live without/I will be your religion/this thing you'll never doubt". The outtro repeats 8x: "Bow down to me". I believe this song is about a relationship in which the woman is in full control of the man or even men. Some suggest it's about rough domination, mainly because of the lyrics of the 2nd verse: "A hit is hard to resist and I never miss/I can take you out with just a flick of my wrist"(in some live shows, Manson sings "fist" instead of "wrist") This is a great album opener, with loud guitars, quiet and melodic verses, a driving chorus, and of course, the statement of the lyrics, setting the tone for music to come. 9/10
02."Queer" (single): Butch Vig said: "...I was reading this novel about this woman who was hired to go and make this guy's son a "man". The kid is missing a few marbles. But then he realizes that the woman who came to his room is also f***ing his father." This is one of Garbage's sexiest songs(and my personal favorite), with lyrics like "Hey boy take a look at me/let me dirty up your mind" and "You can touch me if you want" sang in a very seductive manner in the deep, purring contralto range that is Manson's and a bassline and guitar riff that seem to cheer on the promiscuity and deviance of the lyrics and singing. The song has a trip-hop vibe and gets very loud on the last chorus and will either creep you out, turn you on, make you turn up the bass, or all of these at once. 20/10
03."Only Happy When it Rains" (single): one of Garbage's biggest hits. It's been explained by the band as being "a dig at ourselves because we like records that don't make us feel very happy", hence the lyrics "I only smile in the dark" and "I'm ridin' high upon a deep depression"; it has also been suggested that it's sort of a sardonic ode to Manson's home in Scotland, where it's known to rain a lot year round. Simple chord progressions, mild distortion, and some help from synths give this track a slightly grunge/punk feel, and Manson barely takes a breather throughout, repeating the title several times and also the line "Pour your misery down/on me", in what I assume is the chorus, over and over. Some dislike this song because of its repetitiveness. 8/10
04."As Heaven is Wide": one of Garbage's darkest songs lyrically. This track has one hell of a bridge: "If flesh could crawl my skin would fall from off my bones and run away from here". It has a fast beat and it sounds like they used the synth a lot on this one, giving it a musically ominous vibe to match the lyrics and Manson's equally, if not more, ominous voice, which seems to be at barely more than a whisper (or growl) throughout the entire song. The lyrics suggest some terrible injustice or betrayal and hint at religious meaning: "As far from God as heaven is wide/as far from God as angels can fly". If this one doesn't give you the creeps, nothing else on the album will. 9/10
05."Not My Idea": coming out of the last one, this track is angry, no doubt, but in more of a grumpy, slightly childish way, nowhere near as visceral. This song features Manson sounding her most innocent on the album, creating a nice ironic contrast from the lyrics. 2nd verse: "You thought that I would never see/what was meant for you is meant for me/I was distracted at the time/forget about yours, now what about mine" - that last line is sang in such a whiny, pissed-off-kid-manner - as if she were 6 and someone told her she couldn't play on the swingset - making it reason #1 why I listen to this harder-edged, guitar/beat driven song. Reason #2: "You thought you'd take me by surprise/now I'm here burning down your house". Sang in the same defiant, almost childlike manner, this one comes off as an angry break up/revenge anthem. 8/10
06."A Stroke of Luck": after getting you all riled up and turned on with the first half of the record, the band nosedives into a ballad saturated with depression in "A Stroke of Luck". Manson really flaunts her contralto range in this one, seemingly going as low as her vocal chords allow in the bridge, matching the dark tone of the song. The chorus: "A stroke of luck or gift from God?/hands of fate or devil's claws?", and leading into the last chorus, using falsetto: "Don't ask me why/don't even try". This is the slowest song of the 12 on the album, and the best of 2 ballads, even though "Milk"(track 12) was a single. 10/10
07."Vow" (single): the band's very first single. Vig claimed the song was inspired by "...a sado-masochistic couple who couldn't stay away from each other". The chorus: "I came to cut you up/I came to knock you down(various variations throughout)/I came around to tear your little world apart, and break your soul apart". Manson ad-libbed the first lyric in the intro: "I can't use what I can't abuse". She said, lyrically, the song "is about having feelings of vengeance. [You're] angry, twisted, but deep down, vulnerable." Vig's drumming is very prominent and nicely complements the distorted guitar riff and driving vocals, though toward the end of the song an almost painful high pitched noise rings through the speakers... 8/10
08."Stupid Girl" (single): one of Garbage's biggest hits, if not THE biggest hit of the band's career, the song samples the drum loop from The Clash's hit "Train in Vain". With the faster punky beat as the foundation of the song, the band put a groovy bassline and a kind of loose guitar riff over it, and along with some apparent synth help and Manson's low vocal register, this becomes a very haunting little jingle that stays with you whether you like it or not, aiding, I'm sure, in its massive success. Lyrically the band claims it's not about anyone in particular, that it's about "a girl who won't settle for less than what she wants". 9/10
09."Dog New Tricks": 1st verse: "I wish I had not woke up today/Everyone mistakes the things you say/take a simple truth and twist it all around/make it sound important; make it seem profound". This song could be about rumors and unnessesary drama a person is faced with every day he/she wakes up and is forced to deal with other humans, which for most of the population is 5 out of 7 days of the week. Fairly fast and loud and rocking a chorus in which Manson once again plays "how low can I go" with her vocals, this track will get your blood pumping again. 8/10
10."My Lover's Box": my 2nd favorite song from the album. If someone were to ask me how good a singer Shirley Manson is, this is probably the first song that would come to mind. She implements her low register in the verses and alternates between it and an awesome falsetto in the chorus(the song lacks a bridge). The music itself is very hypnotizing without the help of Manson's haunting vocals, and together they make for a brilliant work of art. The lyrics "My lover's charms are in a box beneath my bed" and "Send me an angel to love/I need to feel a little piece of heaven/send me an angel to love/I'm afraid I'll never get to heaven" seem to suggest a person who feels unworthy of someone they love - perhaps I'm way off. 10/10
11."Fix Me Now": the lightest and poppiest song on the record. The intro and verses give off a nice rocker attitude with a fun guitar riff and lyrics like, "Things don't have to be this way/catch me on a better day". From the verses it goes into a kind of dreamy, floating chorus with the guitarists playing a loose melodic riff - probably around the middle of the neck - and Manson's vocals move up and down, left and right(all over, really, but she somehow pulled it off). Though I don't enjoy this track as much as the others(it's actually my least favorite on the album), it's still another good solid jingle. Overall: 7/10
12."Milk" [single]: 5th and last single from the album. "Milk" is a very electronic-sounding song, is the 2nd of 2 ballads, and also happens to usually be one of my least favorite Garbage songs, one I enjoy when in a rare mood. Manson has said it's one of her favorites from her band's first album, explaining it as more than just a love song or "the ballad at the end of the album", saying it's the "darkest, most hopeless of the songs." The chorus finds the singer desperately repeating the lyrics: "I'm waiting, I'm waiting for you", after which she simply mouths: "do do do do" - which is my favorite part of the song. Manson claimed that lyrically "...it's about loss and the fear of loss." I usually much prefer "A Stroke of Luck" to this one, but this is a very emotionally powerful and beautiful song that I give a 9/10. // 10
Overall Impression: Like I said before, I can't think of a genre in which to place Garbage without simply using the very broad term "alternative". Though Manson's vocals are at times reminiscent of that of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxisie and the Banshees, artists she has noted as two of her biggest influences, and some of the music could easily fit in with those bands/genres.
The top 3 best songs on the album are: 1."Queer" 2."My Lover's Box" 3."A Stroke of Luck" Obviously this is only my opinion and just about everyone is liable to disagree, but these are the ones that I chose based on musical innovativeness, lyrical genius, and the way they make me feel - Aha! Another opinion!
I love most everything about this record, from the lyrics to the stories behind them and especially the originality and pure awesomeness of the music and vocals. Like in any other album, there are parts I don't particularly enjoy - the chorus of "Fix Me Now", for example - but the many pros outweigh the very few cons of this work, making this one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time.
If someone were to steal this album from me I would tell them how great it is and to keep it, listen to it, and give me 10 bucks to go buy another copy for myself. If I were careless enough to lose it I would smack myself and start digging in my furniture for change to take to my local Target to buy myself another copy - ASAP. // 10