Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Absolute Garbage, #5 - 1

#5. Stupid Girl
Album: Garbage (1995)

Don't believe in love, don't believe in hate,
Don't believe in anything, That you can't waste. 

“You pretend you’re high, you pretend you’re bored, you pretend you’re anything, just to be adored." The lyrics are simple but so effective. We’ve either all known one of them or been one of these girls at some stage. Taken from their debut album, it’s another Garbage song that stands the test of time. It definitely has that 90s sound, but doesn’t sound dated, it still stands as such a strong song now. I love the fuzzy intro to this song, the look of Shirley in the clip, the sepia tones and scratched up images of her at her microphone, waiting for that first line, she sings it effortlessly but with venom. She could be singing about anyone, she could be self-loathing and singing about herself, it’s the mystery in these lyrics I love, the lack of detail doesn’t give too much away but makes them so easily relatable. There are so many textures to this track, the distorted guitars, the keyboard laid over the top of the “stupid girl” chant, the scratchy feedback sound throughout. There’s so much going on but it sounds easy, so simple and that’s part of the charm. For the music nerds amongst us who like to know these things, the song is built around a drum track taken from a song by The Clash, which shouldn’t be surprising considering Butch Vig's adoration of that band. (There you go nerds, remember that fact. You’ll use it someday. I just did.) Ultimately, 'Stupid Girl' sounds incredibly Garbage, it is one of the songs that is unmistakably theirs. You can’t hear that lyric, that guitar, that little keyboard line and not picture Shirley and Co. looking all hot and all Garbage like. As well as that, you can’t hear the lyrics “stupid girl, stupid girl…” and not sing along, getting angrier with every teeth clenching, understated “stupid”. What, you don’t do that? What kind of life are you living? “You stupid girl….” (Jo Michelmore)

#4. Push It
Album: Version 2.0 (1998)

This is the noise that keeps me awake,
My head explodes and my body aches... 

There are two things that I need to open with. 1. The way that Shirley Manson stutters out, "P-p-p-push it," is quite possibly the sexiest moment in any song. Ever. In a song that houses a chorus that defines 'sexual innuendo' it's the way that Manson expertly delivers a very simple line that will always stay with me. 2. If you're talking to me about Garbage, my mind has already wandered off to the scene in the music video during the bridge. Shirley in the graveyard, foot extended in that gimp fella's hand, the camera circling all around them manically and it's all in black and white. That's where my mind is. I'm not kidding, I can't hear you. I'm not even focused on what I'm typing now, because all I can think about is that insanely perfect scene that has been burnt into my mind since I was ten years old. Everything about the video for 'Push It' screams 90s; the toddlers riding their parents like horses in a car park, the freak twins that are joined at the head by... I don't even know what it is, the children of the corn, light bulb man, scratched out man, drowning naked girl with fuzzed out naughty bits. This was the alternative 90s kids. The only way to make sense was to make no sense and Garbage pulled that off in spades. Enough about me, enough about the video and enough about Shirley Manson being oh-so-sexy (we'll come back to that later); what of the song? 'Push It' is brilliant. It straddles the lines of rock, pop, electronic and alternative so effectively. Many fans would call it their favourite Garbage song and it's easy to understand why. Released as Version 2.0's lead single, it opened with the iconic line, "I was angry when I met you, I think I'm angry still," which proved to be the reintroduction to the band that everyone had hoped for. They hadn't lost any of the edge that separated Garbage from the rest of the pack. All of the elements that made their debut a success were still present, but with the added bonus of more electronic influences. The sound was fresh and years ahead of many of their contemporaries. Anyway... what? I can't stop thinking about that gorgeous graveyard scene in the video. From a creative standpoint, 'Push It' is Garbage at their very best and a major contributing factor to Version 2.0's nomination for Album of the Year at the 1999 Grammy Awards. (Matt Bond)

#3. Cherry Lips
Album: BeautifulGarbage (2001)

With your cherry lips and golden curls,
You could make grown men gasp when you go walking past... 

Let’s just make it clear from the beginning, I love this song. I. Love. This. Song. Ok? This is Garbage at their poppiest best, one that stands alone as a perfect pop song and although it sits beautifully a little over midway through BeautifulGarbage (and probably my favourite on that album) it’s one I just put on when I want a dance in the lounge room on a Saturday afternoon and I immediately smile when it pops up when my iPod is set to play random. From the simple synthesiser start, with the vocal, “She gave you everything she had...” Garbage could have taken this song anywhere, but where they went was just genius. “She didn’t care to hang around,” is where Butch subtly kicks in on drums, then with all volume and bounce, the guitar and bass kick in at, “…you’re such a delicate boy,” and it’s totally on for the four lines of the chorus. With absolute perfection, the verse is stripped right back again, Shirley playing with the concept of sexuality in her lyrics, then when the chorus kicks in again the pop magic happens once more. The light and dark of this song is part of what makes it so amazing, the journey it takes you through is so much fun. The sing-along chant of “go baby, go baby, go” has to be my favourite bit, the peak of Garbage’s genius. (On a side note; it’s also a fantastic karaoke song. That’s a sign of a good pop song. When I hadn’t heard this song in a long time, I witnessed one of the most handsome boys in the world perform it at karaoke. He performed it sexier than ever, almost as sexy as Shirley. Probably more so. That gave me a complete new appreciation for it. I haven’t listened to it the same since. It’s even better now than it ever was. Thanks karaoke. Thanks handsome boy. Thanks Garbage.) Seriously, I said it at the beginning, I love this song. You just need to listen to it. My words can’t give it justice. Just hit play. End. (Jo Michelmore)

#2. Special
Album: Version 2.0 (1998)

There was nothing that I wouldn't do,
To keep myself around and close to you. 

Betrayal has never sounded so good. Written as a cautionary tale to the naive and the trusting, 'Special' finds Manson reflecting on the damage caused when you've been extremely let down by someone you thought the world of. The one person you would go to any lengths for, knew all their deepest secrets and they knew all of yours. Don't worry though, it's not all doom and gloom. It's essentially a how-to guide on the way to successfully remove someone from your life that is only dragging you down. "Now you're here and begging for a chance, but there's no way in hell I'd take you back." After everything they've done, they've proved they're nothing but beneath you. Beautiful 60s-inspired vocal harmonies maintain an empowering positivity throughout the track, leading up to its brightest moment; "But I've run out of patience, I've run out of comments, I'm tired of the violence, I couldn't care less... I'm looking for a new." All the pain has seemingly washed away and the only way Shirley is looking is to the future. Then, in typical Garbage fashion, they throw in the touch of darkness they're known for, transforming an average line from The Pretenders' 'Talk Of The Town' into heartbreaking gold. "We were the talk of the town," repeated over and over is that moment where you stop to think of what could have been... if you hadn't been such a jerk. 'Special' isn't nearly a strong enough word to describe how incredible this track is. (Matt Bond) 

#1. Only Happy When It Rains
Album: Garbage (1995)

I only smile in the dark,
My only comfort is the night gone black,
I didn't accidentally tell you that,
I'm only happy when it rains.

Ok. I’m going to be completely honest here. Yet again, Garbage are forcing me to admit things about my confused and simple personality on the internet. This is one of the first Garbage songs I heard and was an anthem for me for a little while, an absolute anthem. It meant everything to me and for me, it was one of those songs you get every now and then in your life that are written exactly for you, about you. How did Shirley get inside my head? There’s something stunningly beautiful about celebrating the worst, the moments that are generally the most life defining and of course, there are very few who do that as well as Garbage. It stands as a bit of a theme song for the 90s and the disillusioned, anti-commercialism, alt-rock crowd of the time, but it also still stands as an incredibly strong track. Garbage managed to do what they do best, pop rock with a twisted, dark edge and this song is probably one of the best of them all. The track starts suddenly, with very little intro; “I’m only happy when it rains, I’m only happy when it’s complicated…” the first two lines are enough, Shirley’s vocal so strong, even those two simple opening lines say so much. The distorted guitars and bass keep the song flowing at a quick pace, the infectious melody unusual considering the depressing content of the lyric, but maybe that’s what makes it so special. As I’ve suggested throughout this countdown, Garbage’s ability to combine light and dark, confusion and strength, confidence and questioning, sexy and shy so effortlessly is one of the reasons I like them. “Pour your misery down on me.” As dark as they are, Shirley’s lyrics always make me feel comfortable, I can wrap them around myself and be ok with the world for a little while. What else can I say about a band that does that for me with almost all of their songs? That’s what your favourite music should do and for me, that’s probably the reason I love Garbage so much. (Jo Michelmore)

Not Your Kind of People, Garbage's fifth studio album is released worldwide May 14, 2012. In case you couldn't tell, we're pretty darn excited. 

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