A couple of years ago I wrote about Garbage‘s second album Version 2.0 (1998) to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary and found myself impressed by its consistency, but generally underwhelmed by its content. Their first album does include some of their biggest hits, so it must be better, surely?
Debut Garbage (1995) opens with the unremarkable but grungy Supervixen, setting the scene for a patchy and occasionally great album. Garbage meld together many styles, including pop, synthpop, grunge, and whatever else you want to add to the list. They’re definitely at their best when they tick all the boxes, and Queer does exactly that. Speaking of which, even Queer would have been a better album title than Garbage – but they never really got the hang of good album titles.
Another of the big hits follows, Only Happy When it Rains. This was the first of the big hits in the UK, just sneaking into the top thirty, and sets a good blueprint for what Garbage would be like at their best. It’s a great pop song, and if you ignore the first track, this album is looking pretty promising.
But nothing else really grabs you in the same way for the next fifteen minutes or so. As Heaven is Wide is good enough, and you might well nod your head or tap your feet to the manic rhythm, but it totally lacks any sort of memorable chorus, which is an important oversight. Not My Idea is almost entirely lacking in anything noteworthy.
A Stroke of Luck has a surprising melancholy, which makes it a little more compelling than some of the earlier songs, but it still doesn’t quite grab you in the way you might hope. And then Vow, which was their debut single, scraping into the lower reaches of a few worldwide charts. It might have grabbed some people’s imaginations at the time, but in all honesty there isn’t a whole lot to it.
Then – finally – comes their biggest hit single, the hugely iconic Stupid Girl, which just overflows with attitude and energy in a way that nothing else really has so far. They clearly pulled all the stops out here, even if they dropped the ball somewhat on some of the other entries.
Things fall apart again for the next few songs. Dog New Tricks is really trying to be something, but the ridiculous title lets it down and it just comes across as meaningless. My Lover’s Box starts off promisingly, but doesn’t really build into much. And Fix Me Now is completely forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all entirely listenable, but some tracks really grab you more than others.
By this stage we’ve reached the last track with very mixed feelings. But it’s Milk, the final single from the album, and possibly the best song on here. Its soft and gentle backing is perfect, and Shirley Manson‘s vocal comes together with the synths perfectly. They pulled all the stops out again here. What a way to finish an album!
Ultimately Garbage is a good enough debut, but sets Garbage up very much as a singles band. The follow-up may well have been more consistent, but it also lacked the charm that the big hits brought the first time around.
You can still find Garbage through all major retailers, such as here.