Sunday, May 15, 2016

Garbage (Part 1 - the albums)

Garbage's sixth album comes out in less than a month! Since I've been listening to their new single, I thought I'd revisit the rest of their oeuvre. So here goes - ranking the collective output of my favorite band (rating the songs, not the videos, but including video links where applicable):

This is a really difficult album for me to rank, as I love most of the songs fairly equally, and tend to listen to the whole album straight through. Really everything from Vow through Queer below could be rearranged and I'd still be okay with it. I think this is due in part to the album's cohesion in tone and production. As Heaven Is Wide/A Stroke of Luck/Dog New Tricks/My Lover's Box; even Not My Idea/Fix Me Now are all of a (post-grunge) piece. As this huge chunk of review from Addicted to Noise puts it; "[the album] is akin to a Jackson Pollock painting, thick layers upon layers of sound that have been stripped down, torn apart, pasted together and then stripped again, until the result is a dizzying soundscape that reveals fresh nuances upon repeated listening... [the mix of ambience, rhythms, and noise] gels and rises above the din thanks to catchy hooks and killer song construction."

Only Happy When It Rains - Even though I'm on a particular Supervixen kick at the moment, this has to be one of the most defining songs of my life (which makes sense, as the signature song for my favorite band). It's dark, but also sarcastic and affirming. I love one reviewer's description of it as "pop-noir," although I've always thought of it as a defining song of the alternative genre. It is also one of their best videos (from acclaimed director Samuel Bayer (Smells Like Teen Spirit, No Rain, Green Day's American Idiot videos). He also did Vow, Stupid Girl, AND the upcoming video for Empty (!)):

Supervixen - I honestly believe this is the best first song on any album ever. Those pauses are amazing (they even get a shout out in Jennifer Egan's truly amazing (and pulitzer-prize winning!) A Visit From the Goon Squad). I love every bit of this song.

Vow - Really where it all started. Dark, defiant, fuzzed-out perfection.

As Heaven is Wide - Beautifully sinister. Shirley growls and spits the ominous lyrics over that intense, propulsive beat.

Fix Me Now - Great guitar riff, and I love how Shirley switches between whisper-singing the verses and belting out the chorus and bridge.

Stupid Girl - Amazing intro, fabulous use of the drum sample, great riff, and Shirley's growl. Also one of the band's best videos (I love the obvious Fincher se7en inspiration):

Dog New Tricks - I love the industrial energy on this one.

My Lover's Box - I love the contrast between the slinky verses and the more commanding chorus (much like Fix Me Now above). I also love the ending.

A Stroke of Luck - This is one of the band's best down-tempo songs, due to its haunting tone and fantastic chorus. I also love Shirley's vocal range on this one.

Not My Idea - I go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, it is a simple melody and construction. On the other, it's a total earworm that is really fun to sing (shout) along to, so....

Queer - I really like the slinky, menacing tone of this one, and I only rank it this low because it's nearly impossible to memorize the verse progressions. I've seen Shirley blow them live.

Milk - Really, the only song on the album I'm not super fond of, although I'm clearly in the minority on this one.

Version 2.0
I love this album front to back. Picking favorites is (again) somewhat ridiculous. (There's a reason it was up for album of the year and best rock album at the Grammys.) One of my favorite reviews comes from the Village Voice; "For those of us with no knack for real-life sadomasochism, how better to combine pleasure and pain than to let 12 impregnable theoretical hits march over us in their digital boots?"

I Think I'm Paranoid - Favorite Song. Favorite video:

Sleep Together - On an overtly sexual record, this one is the stand out. You've got those amazing drum parts, contrasted with the synth effects, all propelled along by Shirley's manipulative, cheeky lyrics.

Temptation Waits - I love the driving beat of this one and the obsessive lyrics.

You Look So Fine - Other than Milk (above), I love all of Garbage's album-closing songs. This one is astoundingly beautiful. (I dislike that the video cuts off the rest of the outro, although I understand why):

Push It - I like how the verses are dreamy and just a little foreboding, and then it just ratchets up the intensity through to the chorus. I also love how weird the video is:

Dumb - Another great unrelenting rocker. I love those weird scratchy effects, and all the distortion on the guitars.

When I Grow Up - I love that one of their catchiest, poppiest songs is still so uniquely them; there's that minor key intro, it's firmly on the rock side of the pop/rock divide, and Shirley being both damaged and defiant in the same breath. I also find it hilarious that the video gives Shirley back-up dancers:

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing - The band describe the song as "moody and spare" which is the perfect description, and I love the bass.

Hammering In My Head - the epitome of the futuristic robot vibes in the album. (Fun fact! I sang the lyrics to the chorus wrong for nearly a decade. It's "like an animal." I no longer remember what I thought it was, but it is probably my most notable mondegreen.)

Wicked Ways - So much to love in this one; the pulsing refrain on "And I tried," the western guitar riff, the pounding chorus, the ominous/bitter bridge, followed by that ringing, twinkling guitar bit.

Special - I know! The massive hit this far down the list! I love the song; the kiss-off attitude, the outro (complete with Pretenders nod!) - it's just competing with many excellent songs.

Medication - My least favorite on the record, and yet I still think it's great. I love how the chorus kicks in. (Fun fact - Medication and The Trick is to Keep Breathing both feature a cymbalom, which is a type of dulcimer.)