Garbage : Beautiful Garbage

Shirley Manson and co's third album is a bit rubbish...

“I think it’s their ‘London Calling’,” Garbage‘s press officer tells NME,

helpfully comparing their third LP to the vibrant but vastly overrated third

Clash LP. One man’s genre-blurring moment of excess is another’s, well, mess, and the ubiquity of copies of ‘Garbage’ and ‘Version 2.0’ in Britain’s second-hand

record shops is proof that Garbage was just a phase that some people went through

before they accepted that they really didn’t like music that much after all.

Shirley Manson and Butch Vig seem to have come to a similar realisation in the

three years since the release of their last record. Having alerted the Stupid,

Excessive Packaging department at Mushroom to the need for a really annoying

sleeve for ‘beautiful…’, Garbage have struggled joylessly to make the CD to put

in it.

Depending on your viewpoint, ‘beautiful…’ is either the work of a band with too

many ideas or one with none at all. The sullen opening blast of ‘Shut Your

Mouth’ and single ‘Androgyny’ seem to be an indication that Garbage were hoping

to make another identikit, slightly maudlin record before realising that they

didn’t have enough songs to complete the task.

Frankly, from this point onwards, it all goes a bit mental. On the good side,

the remainder of ‘beautiful…’ shows Garbage not sounding like they were concieved

in a test tube by evil rock scientists for the first time ever. On the bad side,

it sounds like a bunch of people having an extremely untidy nervous breakdown on


“I just don’t care anymore/I’ve reached the end of the road”, sings Manson over

a carpet of sleighbells and syn-drums on the uproariously clueless ‘Can’t Cry

These Tears’. The pan-stick make-up of old is cracking and falling around her

feet in great clumps. She doesn’t sound like Shirley Manson anymore. In fact she

sounds like Denise Van Outen. Weird.

This odd shape-shifting continues throughout the remainder of the record.

‘Cherry Lips’ sounds like Martine McCutcheon being told to have fun at gunpoint,

‘Untouchable’ is ‘La Vida Loca’ for Mogadon freaks, sad ballad ‘Cup Of Coffee’

just sounds like the Cardigans. It’s good in flashes – ‘Nobody Loves You’ (their
REM song) sounds genuinely unhinged – but frighteningly unstable.

“There’s no going back on this one,” purrs Manson on the devastated final track

‘So Like a Rose’. She’s right, there really isn’t. Garbage can’t make Garbage

albums anymore. On ‘beautiful…’ they sound like they don’t know what they’re

doing, have no idea where they’re going and really would rather be in any other

band in the world than this one.

‘Glumdom Calling’, anyone?

Jim Wirth