In 1994 Butch Vig, producer of Nirvana’s masterpiece album Nevermind, was creating his own music alongside fellow music producers Duke Erikson and Steve Marker. Looking for something that took in their punk roots while combining modern technology and dance beats, Vig famously wrote in his studio journal ‘I hope that all this garbage becomes something beautiful’. Enter Scottish singer Shirley Manson and the band Garbage were born and it was beautiful.
While their self titled debut album featured hits such as Queer and Only Happy When It Rains, propelling the band to mainstream success worldwide, it was the follow up Version 2.0, released mid 1998, that solidified the band as being at the forefront of pop music; combining musical genres as they embraced the new digital age.
Driven by lead singles Push It and I Think I’m Paranoid, the electronica influence with more dynamic guitar parts and deeper intense lyrics by Manson, the album was a huge success, matching and even exceeding sales of the debut album.
Twenty years on, Version 2.0 has been reissued to celebrate its birthday and what’s apparent is how fresh many of the songs still sound. The aforementioned I Think I’m Paranoid encompasses all things great about Garbage, the guitars, the electronic beats, the sneering deep vocals, simplistic, efficient guitars.
Many have tried in the pop world to combine since and very few achieve the correct balance however Garbage nailed it. When I Grow Up, is fast paced enough for rockers, catchy for pop fans while influential enough to get the kids involved. Dumb belies it pop sensibilities with a punk attitude while Push It was the refreshing blast of energy 1998 needed from cherry pop music. Wicked Ways meanwhile sneers contempt whilst being wrapped in a catchy chorus anthem for the masses.
The main element for fans though is the bonus tracks, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine has a bluesy Sunday afternoon at your local pub vibe, while an acoustic version of album track Medication shows how talented the band are musically, stripping down to a bare vocal, guitar and piano.
Like most albums that put out ‘rare’ tracks, many are rare for a reason such Soldier Through This and Tornado, which sounds like a terrible 80’s dance number, while Get Busy With The Fizzy could be a TV show theme, if said TV show was Love Island.
Hidden away are two gems that probably should have been on the original album, the ballsy rock Lick The Pavement and Deadwood. The latter is a beautiful simple song, with melodies for days, once again showing a side of the band that produce such quality away from the electronic punk rock they’d mastered. While the former turn ups the volume, cranks the guitars and just straight out kicks arse.
Version 2.0 sounds as fresh today as it did then. Embracing the digital age before everything got heavily compressed and tinny sounding, this was the perfect album that encompassed analo sounds with digital tracking. The guitars sounds heavy yet subtle, the drums dynamic and working in tandem with the electronic beats that compliment them. Version 2.0, like the hit single off the album, is ‘Special’, it’s beautiful and yes, it’s wonderfully Garbage.
Album Review by Iain McCallum