Home Read Classic Album Review: Garbage | beautifulgarbage

Classic Album Review: Garbage | beautifulgarbage

The electro-pop outfit's downward spiral of diminishing returns continues.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Garbage in, garbage out. Remember that bit of computer geek-speak? That nerdy way of saying that the machine is only as good as its operator? That what you get back is only as good as what you put in? Pretty much sums up beautifulgarbage, the been-there-done-that third album from electro-pop darlings Garbage.

Not that this Wisconsin quartet founded by superstar producer Butch Vig and fronted by Scottish alt-goddess Shirley Manson have ever been accused of being mind-bendingly brilliant. Right from the beginning, their sound was a deft synthesis of several factors — a little noise-rock, some electronic fiddling and plenty of pop hooks. But in early hits like Queer, Stupid Girl and Only Happy When it Rains, they managed to produce a truly memorable hybrid. Not so with 1998’s sophomore CD Version 2.0, which pretty much lived up to its name by recycling the same sounds, the same styles, the same approach — but without the same results.

The 13-track beautifulgarbage, unfortunately, continues that downward spiral of diminishing returns. It’s not that all the songs are bad — Shut Your Mouth has funktronic, Brassy-style hip-hop grooves; Untouchable has a catchy scritch-scratch chorus; Till The Day I Die, Silence Is Golden, Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go) and Breaking Up The Girl are pop as crunchy-sweet as a candy apple. No, there’s plenty of listenable stuff here. Trouble is, you can’t escape the nagging feeling you’ve already heard most of it.

Butch’s sampled drum loops, the overdriven guitars and swooping synths, Shirley’s purring pop-diva vocals — they’re all exactly where you knew they would be, sounding exactly as you knew they would. Maybe it’s because the shimmering high-tech production and impersonal sample-based construction of these songs removes their individuality, or maybe it’s just that they’re running out of ideas, but most of these songs are disappointingly predictable. And not nearly as memorable as their early classics. Oh, there are a few flickers of originality — like the ’60s-style girl group vibe of Can’t Cry These Tears and the electro-flamenco of Androgyny — but for the most part you could call this Version 3.0. And like an old piece of software or a faded Xerox, the more times they copy it, the more faded and obsolete it becomes.

Then again, with a name like Garbage, we should have known they’d be into recycling.