Review: Here is an album that completely hits you from left field. Unexpected, ironic, murky, dark, gloomy, slinky, inventive, industrial, sonically challenging, and surprisingly emotional.
If you want to know this band-start here. For those familiar with Garbage, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with this disc. You’ll find that there is no filler and the songs will stick with you for several days. It’s impossible to put down.
The brains behind all of this is the famed producer Butch Vig (Nevermind, Siamese Dream) and what this record really does is carve out its own new territory sonically. It resides in this quasi-technical dark cave somewhere where machines ruminate with emotions that struggle to surface above the mechanical oppression.
This emotion is the hidden weapon of Garbage. Here for ten tracks, this is slinkily spouted by Shirley Manson until track 11 which acts as a breather from the overall mood. In fact, this is a breather before the complete 180 degree closer “Milk” which is completely emotionally driven. This record plays with your mind in a good way.
This is an album that I became obsessed with after the first listen. I didn’t really pick up anything else for a few days.
“I’m Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl” are the two most notable tracks to most people but earlier singles “Vow” and “Queer” also charted well. “Stupid Girl” is constructed over a drum sample from “Train in Vain” and the odd thing is that it actually works. I personally hate samples and only will hear the original song when a sample is used. It was only after reading an article somewhere that I noticed the other sample of “Orange Crush” buried in the song. And I’m the biggest R.E.M. fan on the planet.
If Garbage had continued in this vein instead of venturing into electronic music (as so many artists did around the turn of the century) for 1998’s Version 2.0, I think they would have grown exponentially. To this reviewer, their successive efforts have been very worthwhile but ultimately do not match the substance of their debut. The new album from the reformed Garbage is supposedly due out later this year. I really hope it can get back to the band’s roots.
Editions: I own the original Almo Sounds CD and it doesn’t hold a candle to a needledrop of the Almo US LP. The slight murkiness and darkness hinted at on the CD is fully present on the vinyl. Depth increases, and depth is absolutely essential to this album. And talk about sounding punchy! The UK had a 7″ boxset of the album which should even be better sonically speaking, but of course this would entail changing sides every song. Note: when compiling the Absolute Garbage greatest hits disc, Butch Vig found that the masters for this album were missing and had to restore some old deteriorated 16bit safety files in order to save it. So the vinyl editions are the highest quality sources available. Get ’em before they’re all gone. Sad.
Verdict: A stunning 5.0 out of 5. Perfect sequencing, great memorable songs, inventive sonics, great art.
One of the best albums of the 90’s and gladly put into the Immortal category. Three words: GET THIS ALBUM!
The CD back cover simply has a photo of the band standing in a dark urban city street. The vinyl has the real photo on the back-the one that reveals the sillier side of this band and reminds the listener that we’re only human: