Garbage

Absolute Garbage (A&E Records 07) Rating: A-

Garbage exploded onto the music scene in 1995 with their self-titled debut album. And why not? Their drummer, Butch Vig, was arguably the best-known producer of the early '90s, helming classic albums by the likes of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, L7, and Freedy Johnson, and their charismatic redheaded singer Shirley Manson oozed sex appeal with her dominatrix persona. There are two other guys in the band but let's face it nobody ever talks about them, and besides we want to focus on the band's music, specifically the music on this compilation album, which takes five tracks from Garbage and another five from their also extremely successful second album Version 2.0 (1998) while also including the two soundtrack cuts from that era, "# 1 Crush" off of Romeo + Juliet and the theme song to the James Bond movie The World is Not Enough. It then breezes through their two lesser albums thus far in the 2000s, starting with the best song off Beautiful Garbage (2001) in "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)" and then continuing with the extremely annoying "Shut Your Mouth." Next up is the two singles off Bleed Like Me (2005), both of which are solidly enjoyable if not exactly inspired, and I'd describe the new song ("Tell Me Where It Hurts") and the remix ("It's All Over But The Crying") similarly. Still, it's the first ten or so tracks that I'm most fond of; "Only Happy When It Rains" and "Stupid Girl" were a pair of quintessential Generation-X singles that you're likely familiar with, but there's much more worth hearing here than just those two. By and large Garbage's songs could be grouped into BIG rockers ("Vow," "Only Happy When It Rains," "Push It"), slinky pop numbers ("Queer," "Stupid Girl," "I Think I'm Paranoid"), atmospheric, trip-hoppy ballads ("Milk," "You Look So Fine," "The World Is Not Enough"), and bubblegum pop ("Special," "When I Grow Up," "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)." Of course, those are simplistic groupings, as parts of some songs could be slated within multiple groups, but what all of these songs share is a glossy, state of the art production that sounds sleekly futuristic but is also very much of the here and now. Perhaps Garbage can be a bit too note perfect and sweat free, but I really like a lot of these seductive, hook-filled songs just the same even if I rarely flat-out love them. Absolute Garbage contains just about all the Garbage I need, as it captures almost all the early essential cuts from the '90s and then gives the best of the rest of their less essential '00s work. It's not perfect, as this 18-track album starts to seem a bit long after awhile, I would've added "Supervixen" and removed "Shut Your Mouth," and the bonus remix disc really isn't worth your time; I recommend sticking with the single cd-edition. Still, Absolute Garbage is a really good compilation on the whole, as it provides a perfect introduction to and summation of their best work.

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