It depresses me when I agree with Stephen Thomas Erlewine, but he’s right about the underwhelming Garbage compilation. Leading with a minor hit single whose first words are a catchy non sequitur, the collection avoids as much context as possible for their souped-up gothic/Catholic melodrama. And Garbage did/do not exist without context. Song for song the first half is unassailable (“Stupid Girl” and “Special,” neither of which I’d heard in years, sounded good), but as their audience expanded so too did their melodramatic ambitions; it makes no sense to hate them for recording a James Bond song when clearly they, like Duran Duran, were made for the subgenre (all that’s surprising is how limp the results were). Exploiting a forgivable (I hope), youthful penchant for hyperbole, I once tagged Version 2.0 as “the nineties’ Parallel Lines.” Now it’s more like “the nineties’ Automatic (yes, that Jesus & Mary Chain album). Christgau once complimented Debbie Harry’s “vocal gloss” for revealing “nooks of compassion”; meanwhile Shirley Manson is just lucky to have a glossy voice. At her best she’s a compelling cipher who strained to reach heights of cartoonish lust and need (hence the goth comparisons). Not only wouldn’t you take her out to dinner, but you’d think twice about doing her in an alley (the ache in “You Look So Fine” suggests that she hasn’t figured out which she prefers, and we know how het guys feel about women who don’t know what they want). Absolute Garbage reveals less ambiguity than one would like from a band that purportedly recorded classic singles. What’s confusing is how they scored a Top Five debut in 2005.

It depresses me when I agree with Stephen Thomas Erlewine, but he’s right about the underwhelming Garbage compilation. Leading with a minor hit single whose first words are a catchy non sequitur, the collection avoids as much context as possible for their souped-up gothic/Catholic melodrama. And Garbage did/do not exist without context. Song for song the first half is unassailable (“Stupid Girl” and “Special,” neither of which I’d heard in years, sounded good), but as their audience expanded so too did their melodramatic ambitions; it makes no sense to hate them for recording a James Bond song when clearly they, like Duran Duran, were made for the subgenre (all that’s surprising is how limp the results were). Exploiting a forgivable (I hope), youthful penchant for hyperbole, I once tagged Version 2.0 as “the nineties’ Parallel Lines.” Now it’s more like “the nineties’ Automatic (yes, that Jesus & Mary Chain album). Christgau once complimented Debbie Harry’s “vocal gloss” for revealing “nooks of compassion”; meanwhile Shirley Manson is just lucky to have a glossy voice. At her best she’s a compelling cipher who strained to reach heights of cartoonish lust and need (hence the goth comparisons). Not only wouldn’t you take her out to dinner, but you’d think twice about doing her in an alley (the ache in “You Look So Fine” suggests that she hasn’t figured out which she prefers, and we know how het guys feel about women who don’t know what they want). Absolute Garbage reveals less ambiguity than one would like from a band that purportedly recorded classic singles. What’s confusing is how they scored a Top Five debut in 2005.