#LPLOVE – ‘Beautiful Garbage’ by Garbage
Radio didn’t want the American rock band’s third album, but it’s aged extremely well with its trip-hop and electronic leanings
On the 20th anniversary of Garbage’s third album, beautifulgarbage, a limited edition double colored vinyl LP pressing is now available. The underrated album marked a significant departure sonically from the band’s two previous albums, their self-titled debut Garbage and its Grammy-nominated Album Of The Year follow-up Version 2.0.
At a time when social media was just becoming a thing, lead singer Shirley Manson shared the making of the album in a weekly online blog. What listeners got to see was a broadening musical landscape that the band was tapping into, adding elements of hip-hop, electronica and even Sixties girl group vibes to the recording. The blending of their alternative rock persona with these new infusions definitely didn’t sit well with many long-term fans.
After the massive critical and commercial success of Version 2.0 (I must preface, it’s one of my all-time favorite albums and should have won AOTY at the Grammys), beautifulgarbage was actually meant to be a collection of B-sides that the band composed while on tour, breaking away from the confines of what made them into such iconic late Nineties rock stars.
But after the release of the James Bond theme “The World Is Not Enough” which showcased a bit of a stylistic departure for the band, became a major hit, record label execs wanted to push Garbage towards putting together the tracks they had recorded into their next studio album.
It resulted in an interesting blend of the old and the new. The classic alt-rock Garbage sound can be found in tracks like “Silence is Golden” and “Shut Your Mouth” but then breaks from there to tenders ballads (“Cup Of Coffee”), new wave meets girl group (“Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)”), to electric tinged hip-hop (“Androgyny”).
The latter ended up being the first single from the album. The single didn’t get much press at the time because of the September 11th attacks but it’s likely even if that weren’t the case, the song was not what traditional Garbage devotees were used to hearing and it stalled at radio. As was the usual case with Garbage, they didn’t stop from releasing remixes of the single, including one by The Neptunes (which arguably might have made the song more interesting and frankly a hit).
Garbage had already developed quite the reputation, perhaps second only to Depeche Mode in the modern rock space in mastering the art of remixes. In many ways, the variety of sounds created by producers and DJs as wide-ranging as Massive Attack, Todd Terry, Timo Mass and Fun Lovin’ Criminals over the years culminated in beautifulgarbage offering the band themselves the opportunity to get in on the fun. It was actually lovely to hear Manson vocally engage in different styles, making us truly her emotions across genres and moods.
Overall the record did manage to garner positive critical reception but unfortunately, the album didn’t match up commercially. Subsequent single releases including “Cherry Lips,” “Breaking Up the Girl” and “Shut Your Mouth” failed to resonate with listeners at the time the way their previous records had.
I would actually argue radio was at fault here. Being pigeonholed as modern rock Gods of sorts, Garbage never really got the Top 40 love their songs actually deserved. Besides “Stupid Girl,” no single ever really broke through on commercial radio. So it was no surprise then that these incredibly catchy, far more melodic singles wouldn’t click as strongly on niche radio while Top 40 was used to ignoring the band, labeling them as alternative.
Garbage seemed to react quite strongly to the audience’s semi-rejection and perhaps corrected course with subsequent releases Bleed Like Me and Not Your Kind of People. While both were strong records, the joy that beautifulgarbage highlighted seemed to be a far cry away. In many ways, the retread was the greatest disservice. Garbage was growing and we cut the branches prematurely on where they could go sonically.
On the plus side, the album has aged extremely well. Today, beautifulgarbage and its bag of hits would be gold for any artist. Literally any released single from the time could be a hit for any Top 40 artist right now from Ariana Grande to The Weeknd to Olivia Rodrigo to Post Malone.
The remastered and expanded vinyl is definitely worth a spin for any music fan and most positively worth a second spin for any Garbage fan.