It’s been a while since the music world has heard from the pride of Madison, our hometown heroes,Garbage. Their last release, Version 2.0, was marked by the hit track “When I Grow Up,” which was featured in Adam Sandler’s last good film, Big Daddy, and the rough rocker “I Think I’m Paranoid.” Their newest release, beautifulgarbage, pulls out every studio trick in the book to make a layered and new sound for the band. The results vary. The first seven songs of the album are very strong, but the second half falters and blends together in a generic mish mash of soft tempo tracks that sound more like filler than a genuine attempt at making a solid record from start to finish.
What beautifulgarbage proves is that our local heroes have talent and an incredible flexibility when it comes to what they can and can’t do.
There are some sonic surprises on beautifulgarbage, and even though they catch the listener off guard, they really work. The core of the band’s talent is Scottish sex symbol Shirley Manson, with her great vocals and stage presence.
Then there’s legendary producer/drummer Butch Vig. Vig could never do another thing again in his life, and no one would forget that he was behind the control panels of one of the most important records of all time, Nirvana’s Nevermind. It’s still hard to believe that Vig recorded Cobain’s down-tuned version of “Polly” in Madison at Smart Studios.
What works with beautifulgarbage are the first seven songs on the album. They rock, they roll, they mellow out–they do a little bit of everything. The tracks show that the band wasn’t just sleeping off the past three years.
“Shut Your Mouth” is a simple track with plenty of bells and whistles and a great chorus of “shut your mouth/try not to panic/just shut your mouth/if you can do it”. The track is a straight-ahead classic Garbage rocker that gets the album off to a good start. Look for this track to be the first song on the set list during any future tour.
Where the album catches you off guard is with the track “Androgyny.” You double check the CD case to make sure that you didn’t pick up a Destiny’s Child CD, because of the strong R&B vibe that the song gives off. The all-too-familiar acoustic guitar over digital samples that marks most TLC-influenced R&B these days has its prints all over the verses of the track. The chorus is much more rockin’, and it balances the initial shock that occurs upon first hearing the song. Despite the somewhat derivative nature of the verses, the track works and exemplifies the versatility of Garbage.
“Can’t Cry These Tears Anymore” is another track that totally catches the listener off guard, but, oddly, it works in a Bjork sort of way. The upbeat, show-tune vibe that the song gives off works well, because it gives Manson a chance to show off her soothing vocals in a way that the straight-ahead rock tracks don’t give her a chance to.
Not to worry, the album gets back to the rock with “Til The Day I Die,” which has the energy and tone that got classic Garbage tracks like “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl” noticed. The chorus of “I would love you til the day that I die” flows over multi-textured guitar layers and a driving, simple drumbeat.
If the simple things are what make Garbage great, then “Silence Is Golden” is easily the best track on the album. This track takes the gold in the latest installment of Garbage music. Opening with a country-esque riff, the track leads into a crashing four-chord chorus with a watery guitar note underneath, while Manson sings “silence is golden/I have been broken/safe in my own skin/so nobody wins.” Rather than limiting the track, “Silence Is Golden” goes through a number of bridges and choruses that keep the structure of the song from being too simple. “Silence Is Golden” is reason enough to check out this latest release.
Garbage have returned on their own terms. The true beauty of beautifulgarbage exists in its most simple, straight-ahead moments. Even though the latter half of the album isn’t as strong as the first half, it is still a good listen and has its compelling moments. Hopefully Garbage will do some warm-up shows in town so that they can give Madison a taste of their beautiful new sounds before they take them around the world on their next tour.