ALL OUR YESTERDAYS : VERSION 2.0

Album: Version 2.0 – Garbage
Review: Uncut, June 1998
Author: David Stubbs

“THERE ARE surprisingly few bands like Garbage, bands operating in that shadowy, uncertain zone between the flesh of rock and the metal of techno. They’re all but alone in stepping into the breach left by the demise of The Cure and The Banshees. That their debut album sold three million copies suggests that there’s a hunger for what they’re doing in a time when the gap between rock’s Luddite traddism and techno’s bleep and booster extremism has never been greater.

Version 2.0 is, as its software-orientated title suggests, an upgrading of essentially the same model as the first album. It’s just a bit more of everything – just that bit smoother, rougher, harder, cooler, warmer, more efficient, more fucked up.

‘Temptation Waits’, the opener, with its whiplash backbeat and matt black exteriors, sets the tone – like some PVC panther, Shirley Manson establishes the character she maintains throughout the album, taunting, sensual, predatory, desperate, self-loathing, nasty.

Interestingly, in real life Shirley Manson is a very nice individual with a sensible and balanced attitude towards the stardom she never expected, who carries herself as if unaware of her Barbie-goth looks.

When she sings/breathes, “Watch my temper / I go mental / I try to be gentle”, the fact she’s only playing the role of a disturbed cyberbitch doesn’t make her “bogus” – rather, this is a perfect, controlled simulation, well-scripted, well-acted, whose psychological accuracy is underpinned by the electro-morphing shifts and turns in the man-made fabric of the sound. This is virtual emotional authenticity.

Garbage actually work with conventional rock structures of verse, middle and chorus – ‘Special’ is a great hunk of turbo-charged janglepop that could have been made any time in the last 20 years. It’s the way Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig (collectively responsible for the instruments, samples and loops) turn these songs inside out, shift from colour to black and white, cave them in at key moments of epiphany and crisis on the likes of ‘Medication’ and ‘Sleep Together’ that gives them the jarring detail, the full-bore impact lacking in straight grunge for all its sweat and hoarse platitudes.

Or take ‘Push It’, the single, loosely incorporating the chant from The Beach Boys‘ ‘Don’t Worry Baby’. The sense of plunging into the sexual unknown is exacerbated by the physical plunge the sound seems to take as if right down into the troubled recesses of Shirley Manson’s brain, midway through.

This is a plastic, contrived album made largely on fake instruments using studio trickery.

I heartily recommend it.”

JC adds…….

The emergence of Garbage via the eponymous debut album in 1995 was timely, certainly here in the UK, as it offered something just that little different and edgier from the many, admittedly excellent ‘Britpop’ albums released that year.

Three years later and the musical landscape had changed quite substantially in a way that, looking back now all these years later, was as important and as welcome as the sort of revolution of the punk/new wave era. There were comedown records offered by the likes of Pulp and Massive Attack, there were innovative and imaginative albums by Beastie Boys, Beck and The Beta Band, there was some proof that Scotland was continuing to punch above its weight as Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian and Idlewild all released what would prove to be some of their most enduring records, while our cousins in Wales had a stellar year thanks to Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

In the midst of all this, Garbage released a second album, one which, as David Stubbs makes clear, wasn’t all that different from the multi-million selling debut except for the fact it managed to sound ‘smoother, rougher, harder, cooler, warmer, more efficient, more fucked up.’  Strangely enough, Version 2.0 reached #1 here in the UK where the debut had only managed to hit #6, but when all things were added up in due course, it sold fewer copies.  It was almost as if the fans of the debut had rushed out to buy the new effort, only to find that it being a bit more fucked-up meant it didn’t get too many listens.  Even today, it’s a CD (it was never released on vinyl until the 20th Anniversary) that you will come across regularly in charity and second-hand shops, with the record-buying public willing to decree it as landfill.  Just three years later, the sales of the third album would be less than 20% of the debut.

Maybe it’s the fact that so many weren’t able to stomach the contents of Version 2.0 that the music snob in me gravitates to it more than the debut.  Or maybe it’s just that it’s an excellent and enduring collection of songs, even if one of them seems to stray too close for comfort at times to Shania Twain territory:-

mp3: Garbage – Wicked Ways

But the PJ Harvey tribute elsewhere more than compensates:-

mp3: Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid

One of four hit singles from the album, with this being the best-known:-

mp3: Garbage – Push It

One thing worth recalling is that Garbage, were by now considered to be just the right side of mainstream to be offered the opportunity to perform the theme song to the next James Bond film, one that was released in 1999:-

mp3: Garbage – The World Is Not Enough

Composed by David Arnold, with lyrics by Don Black who was a veteran of the Bond themes, it was a real shock to those of us expecting something akin to the first two albums, being a real throwback to the sort of classic Bond themes tunes I had grown up with, whether watching them on TV or later, in the company of my dad at the cinema.  The review in Melody Maker was incredibly sniffy:-

“You know what this sounds like before you hear it. If the people in charge want Garbage, then why not let them do what Garbage do?”

Or maybe let them stretch themselves a bit, proving they were happy to allow lead singer Shirley to briefly imagine herself as Bassey and not Manson.

JC

CHANGED PARTICLES (V3) : Issue #1

GREETINGS TO THE NEW REDHEAD

While jetsetting around Spain with the Villains I asked JC about getting the Charged Particles series going again. I proposed to get the ball rolling with a bit about Shirley Manson, whose name I’d casually dropped in a recent TVV post. It’s not much of a story, but it fits in nicely with another Charged Particles entry about my gym buddy Chris, who turned out to be a Foo Fighter. So, here you go:

THE SHIRLEY MANSON STORY

My wife, the beautiful Goldie the Friendly Therapist (GTFP), has a childhood friend named Lisa, whose boyfriend was a nice guy named Dan. “You’ll like Dan,” Goldie told me, “he’s a bassist in some band.” The band turned out to be Garbage. Dan wasn’t one of the four principal band members but he had recorded and toured with them. When Lisa and Dan got married I was hoping the band would be there because I was really interested in talking to Butch Vig. I didn’t listen to Garbage; nothing against them but just not my thing. But Butch Vig! With the possible exception of OK Computer I don’t think there was a more important rock record in the 90’s than Nevermind, and Vig was the guy that produced it for Nirvana!

The wedding took place on a classic Hollywood summer night at a 1920’s hilltop mansion. Probably because of Goldie’s long friendship with the bride, we were put at the band table. The Garbage table, as it were. Before I could position myself next to Butch Vig, Shirley Manson sat herself down at the corner on my left, gave me a big smile, reached out her hand and said, “Hi! I’m Shirley.” “I know who you are,” I smiled back. Then we chatted for the next 3 hours. I can say from personal experience that she is an absolute sweetheart. She has what can be called a charming laugh, and she laughed a lot that night. No airs or pretensions whatsoever; no need to call any attention to herself. Never having heard her interviewed, I was surprised at her thick Scottish accent. For some reason we got to talking about David Beckham, who I think had just been sold to Real Madrid. “Ach, e’s pew say wept!” said Shirley. It took me a moment to understand she was saying that Beckham was pussy-whipped by Posh. Then she did a pretty funny imitation of their appearance on Da Ali G. Show.

I don’t really remember what else we talked about. I just recall that she was super friendly, asked loads of questions, laughed quite a bit, didn’t talk about herself, and was a lot of fun. Later in the evening a few of the band left the table and went off to smoke cigars on a veranda looking down the hillside. I like a cigar and was regretting I hadn’t thought to bring one of my own. Shirley must have noticed my envious look because she turned to me and said, “Oh! Would you like a cigar?” and popped off somewhere before I could answer. She returned and presented one for me. So I nicked off to the smokers and had a cigar. With Butch Vig.

Goldie has a theory that I’m constantly running into famous folks because I am the least starstruck person there is. There are thousands of celebrities in Los Angeles, but very few are celebrated for doing something intelligent, or for being kind souls, so I’m just not interested. I used to work at a firm that did a lot of industry work which involved meeting loads of famous people, and there are very few I’d like to meet again. And I figure that people just want to be left alone anyway.

At the end of the night Shirley gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek and said, “Lovely talking with you, sweetie!” I’d love to tell you that rock stars and international sex symbols naturally gravitate to me, but it was just happenstance. She might remember the night, because it was a very beautiful wedding of one of her close friends, but I sincerely doubt that Shirley Manson would have the faintest idea of who I am or was. It was a good cigar, though.

Garbage – Medication

JTFL

JC adds – in case anyone wasn’t aware, all charged particle songs must end with the letters -ion.

 

 

YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : RADIO FRIENDLY UNIT (NON) SHIFTER

Goodbye-Mr-Mackenzie-The-Rattler---1st-109258

(Originally posted on the old blog on 11 April 2009)

All that talk the other day of Paul Haig got me thinking of other great songs to come out of Edinburgh. And right away, this piece of magic from 1986 sprung to mind:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie actually formed in Bathgate, which is a small town some 15 miles or so west of the capital, and their first single in 1984 was recorded (as The Mackenzies) on the record label of a local further education college.

This follow-up single was put out on the Glasgow-based Precious Organisation, which was the home to the soon chart-conquering Wet Wet Wet, but despite a lot of support from local radio stations across central Scotland (with one of the lines changed to avoid references to eating beavers), it flopped. There continued to be a real buzz about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – this was a time when Scottish acts like Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry and the afore mentioned Wets were hugely popular and GMM were lumped in with all of them – so it was hardly a surprise that they ended up signing to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, in early 1988.

The first couple of singles flopped, and so band and label decided to release a re-recorded version of The Rattler which hit #37 in the UK charts in 1989.  Debut LP, Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, did make the Top 30 a few months later, but a fourth single from the album sold poorly.

While some of the songs were as radio-friendly and catchy as many of their Scottish contemporaries, GMM never quite took off as expected – this was probably down to the fact that live they were quite a different proposition.

For instance, the lead guitarist was a huge bear of a man who was once part of a local punk outfit (and still looked as if that’s where he’d rather be) and there was a strange gothic-looking girl on keyboards and backing vocals, and you could never accuse them of being cuddly and photogenic…

With no real sustainable success, the record label lost interest, and while the band soldiered on for a few more years, they ended up as a mere footnote, albeit one that left us four LPs, about a dozen 45s/EPs and a couple of live recordings.

After they broke up, the gothic backing singer went onto find real fame and fortune :-

mp3 : Garbage – Queer

Yup, it was Shirley Manson who used to stand at the back of the stage with GMM, and before long she was a huge star the world over as lead singer in the band put together by Butch Vig, previously best-known as producer of Nevermind, the breakthrough album by Nirvana…..with whom Big John Duncan, the guitarist with GMM, occasionally played live.

It’s a small world y’know….

mp3 : Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter

My copy of the 1986 single is well worn out, and the mp3 of The Rattler is taken from a CD compilation that gathers up all sorts of indie songs from that year, but I have managed to salvage one of the b-sides:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Candlestick Park

Enjoy