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.)

Beautiful Garbage
This is such an interesting album. It was unfortunately released in late September, 2001, which limited the band's promotion and, as such, I think it is regarded as one of their less successful outputs (despite making Rolling Stone's Top 10 albums of the year.) I know that in that difficult month, I enjoyed having an album by my favorite band out to focus on and geek out over.

Cherry Lips - a much poppier song from the band, but sooo catchy and with such a lovely, upbeat feel.

Silence is Golden - Super angry and wounded and with that crazy bridge between the two tempos that shouldn't work, but does.

Shut Your Mouth - Love it. Sidebar: I thought there were two videos that came out for this. One is linked here, but I can't find the other and neither is on the official Garbage vevo page.

Can't Cry These Tears - This is so unlike their normal output, but I love the big girl group sound. Plus it's fun to belt out.

Til the Day I Die - Like Paranoid, I love the bassline here. Also "Holy Jesus, Holy Rock n' Roll."

Androgyny - I'll admit; I've been a little spoiled on this one by one of my favorite remixes (which will pop up in the next post).

Nobody Loves You - I love the dark tone of this one; Shirley's range on the melody; and the shifts between the softer and more rock sections.

Drive You Home - I don't listen to this one quite as often (being a slow song), but I think it is beautifully written.

So Like a Rose - The grand tradition of final floaty songs continues. This song is dreamy.

Untouchable - I like Shirley's strut on this one.

Breaking Up the Girl - I like parts of this song, but overall, it has always felt a little soft to me (the video concept, too). I never understood why the record company put this out as a single in America over Cherry Lips, which did super well in other countries. Shirley looks amazing in the video though, and I appreciate that it was the theme song to the final Daria episode:

Parade - Again, I love parts of the song (the intro; the chorus; the outro), but the kaboom!s have never really done it for me, and I feel like some of the lyrical components that are slightly underdeveloped here, Shirley perfected later in Big Bright World.

Cup of Coffee - I mean, props for the saw. As beautifully as Shirley writes about heartbreak, much like Milk and It's All Over but the Crying (or Drive You Home); their subdued songs do tend to be the ones I listen to least.

Bleed Like Me
It's hard for me as a fan to love this album quite as much as the others, knowing how difficult and painful for the band it was to record. And yet; I like or love every single song on the record. There's a lot of brilliance on here, and while it maintains the band's excellent production values, it's a more stripped down, straightforward rock album.

Happy Home - One of my all-time favorites. It's so gorgeous, and when it reaches the outro, I'm constantly in danger of blowing out my speakers (or eardrums) in rapture to those chord progressions.

Bad Boyfriend - I love Dave Grohl's contribution on the drums here. This one has always struck me as a signature Garbage song. Lots of guitar, layered production, tons of attitude; basically a total rocker.

Run Baby Run - I listened to this one a lot while I was traveling.

Metal Heart - I've always thought this one sounded a bit like a throwback to V2.0, with the futuristic electronic sheen.

Why Do You Love Me - the bridge is so weird, but the chorus is so super catchy.

Boys Wanna Fight - The poppiest critique of Bush's foreign policy ever. I particularly like the call and response bridge on this one.

Bleed Like Me - This one is so beautiful; Shirley at her most vulnerable and compassionate. It's also one of my favorite videos:

Sex is Not the Enemy - Shirley in full rallying cry mode.

Right Between the Eyes - I'm not sure why I don't like this one better; it's got great guitar, Shirley's strut, and that excellent ending. It's just never become one of my favorites.

Why Don't You Come Over - This one of the band's more ridiculous songs, and yet I find it impossible not to bop along to it.

It's All Over But the Crying - This song is beautifully composed; once again, I just happen to not listen to it quite as much, being the slow break in the record. That ending is sadly gorgeous, though.

Not Your Kind of People
I think a lot of reviewers saw this album as a throwback to their first two (positively!), but it strikes me as more of a dark pop record than the alternative or electronic rock of those. I think where it does share the DNA of those first two is the dense sonic layering (as one reviewer put it, "the thick aural onslaught of 'Stupid Girl' and 'Vow'".) For example, just listen to...

Control - It's crazy to me that this wasn't the first single. Much as I love many of the songs on this album; I think this is far and away the breakout. That weird industrial harmonica bit is amazing.

The One - I'm including the four deluxe edition bonus tracks, in large part because I completely adore this one. It's relentless.

Big Bright World - This song is so beautiful. And, as is obvious from this list, I love their songs that have a kick into high gear (at 1:05). Rage against the dying light, indeed.

Automatic Systematic Habit - This one is so much fun to sing along to. I love snarling Shirley.

I Hate Love - This one has an insanely catchy, sinister riff.

Felt - Another fuzzy, lush sonic dream/hallucination.

Blood for Poppies - I like the distorted rock of this one. This is one of my favorite reviews of the track;"If only all seven-year itches came with as much squalling feedback and eardrum-bursting goodness." (Un-Chien-Andalou-homage warning for the video:)

Sugar - This is one my favorite slower Garbage tracks in part, I think, because of its hypnotic qualities.

Not Your Kind of People - This might be the only Garbage song that I think of as a ballad. As one reviewer put it, it is a "beautiful, otherworldly cross between a John Barry Bond theme and a David Bowie outsider anthem."

Bright Tonight - (deluxe track) This one has always sounded like a sonic companion to Beloved Freak (below) to me.

Beloved Freak - Garbage's version of a lullaby. Not quite as floaty as their other final songs, but simple and pretty.

Man On a Wire - I like the driving percussion on this one, and the noise of the chorus, but the bridge doesn't quite work for me.

Show Me - (deluxe track) I'm not a big fan of the simple intro, but it picks up steam as it rolls along. I do think the breakdown during the bridge needs to be a little more grandiose, though.

Battle In Me - I think most people like this track more than I do (it was released as a single after all.) I think it is the start/stop nature of it that doesn't quite work for me (not so much the drums on the chorus, but more the halting nature of the verses).

What Girls Are Made Of - (deluxe track) Well, I hate to end this post on a downer note, but the stripped down production of this one just isn't my thing. But! More goodness to come in the next post!

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