Garbage (album)

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For other uses, see Garbage (disambiguation).
Garbage
Studio album by Garbage
Released August 15, 1995
(See release history)
Recorded April 1994 – May 1995,
Smart Studios,
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Genre Alternative rock, power pop, dance rock
Label Almo Sounds
Producer Garbage
Garbage chronology
Garbage
(1995)
Version 2.0
(1998)
Singles from Garbage
  1. "Vow"
    Released: March 20, 1995
  2. "Only Happy When It Rains"
    Released: September 17, 1995
  3. "Queer"
    Released: November 20, 1995
  4. "Stupid Girl"
    Released: March 11, 1996
  5. "Milk"
    Released: November 11, 1996

Garbage is the debut album by American alternative rock group Garbage. It was released in the late summer and autumn of 1995 worldwide, following critical acclaim and promising chart positions for their debut single "Vow", which entered the Billboard Hot 100.

Garbage eventually spent over a year on both the US and UK charts, reaching the top 20 on charts worldwide and receiving multi-platinum certification in numerous territories. The album's success was helped by the band promoting it on a year-long tour, including playing on the European festival circuit and supporting the Smashing Pumpkins throughout 1996, as well as by a run of increasingly successful singles culminating with "Stupid Girl" which in 1997 was nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. Garbage was considered innovative by critics.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Background[edit]

In 1983, Butch Vig and Steve Marker founded Smart Studios in Madison and Vig's production work brought him to the attention of Sub Pop. Vig's old band Spooner reunited in 1990 and released another record, but disbanded in 1993 as Vig and Marker's career as producers gained strength.[7] In 1994, as Vig become "kind of burned out on doing really long records," he got together with Duke Erikson and Marker, and they started doing remixes for acts such as U2, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and House of Pain, featuring different instrumentation, and often highlighting new guitar hooks and bass grooves. The experience inspired the three men to form a band, where they "wanted to take that remix sensibility and somehow translate it into all of the possibilities of a band setup."[8] An early comment that their work sounded "like garbage" inspired the band's name.[9]

Vocalist Shirley Manson had been performing with the Edinburgh rock band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie since 1984.[10] In 1993, several band members, including Manson, changed their name to Angelfish. Their only release, the self-titled Angelfish, did not do any better than the preceding albums by Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, selling only 10,000 copies.[11]

Initial sessions with Vig on vocals, and the member's past work with all-male groups led to the band's desire for a woman on lead.[12] Marker was watching 120 Minutes when he saw the music video for Angelfish's "Suffocate Me". He showed the video to Erikson and Vig while their manager Shannon O'Shea tracked Manson down. When Manson was contacted, she didn't know who Vig was and was urged to check the credits on Nevermind, the popular Nirvana album which Vig produced. On April 8, Manson met Erikson, Marker and Vig for the first time in London. Later that evening Vig was informed of Kurt Cobain's suicide.[9] Garbage was put on hold, until Angelfish were touring North America in support of Live.[13] Erikson, Marker and Vig attended the Metro Chicago date; and Manson was invited to Madison to audition for the band. The audition did not go well, but Manson socialized with the men while there and they found they had a similar taste in music. Angelfish disbanded at the end of the Live tour. Manson called O'Shea and asked to audition again feeling that "it would work out".[9]

Recording[edit]

In her return to Smart Studios, Manson began to work on skeletal versions of the songs "Queer", "Vow" and "Stupid Girl".[14] While looking for a record deal to put the album out, Garbage sent out demo tapes with no bio, to avoid a bidding war over Vig's production history.[15] Garbage signed with Mushroom U.K. worldwide and to Jerry Moss's label Almo Sounds for North America.[11] Manson's contribution was licensed to both Mushroom and Almo by her label Radioactive.[16]

"We ended up having 48 tracks of samples and loops, and all sorts of strange processed sound effects and weird guitar overdubs, and then through the mix process we'd add and subtract until we'd get to a point where the song still came across."

 —Butch Vig on the creative process[8]

Garbage continued to work on the album throughout the start of 1995, being delayed by Vig's work producing Soul Asylum's Let Your Dim Light Shine album and the songs being "piecemealed together in the studio".[17] Vig described the composing process as a "disfunctional democracy" where someone would bring a loop or a sample, which was followed by jam sessions where the bandmembers would "find one bar that's kind of cool, load that into our samplers, jam on top of that, [and] Shirley will ad-lib", with the process continuing until the song was finished, often with "all of the original ideas gone, and the song had somehow mutated into something completely different."[8] Among the songs that were completely reworked, "As Heaven is Wide" went from "a big rock track" to a techno song with Tom Jones-inspired beats, only keeping Erikson's fuzz bass and Manson's vocals from the original recording.[8] Given Vig "got bored spending so many years recording really fast, straightforward punk records", the band "didn't want to approach the Garbage record from the angle of a band playing live", making their songs out of samples that would be processed and reworked in a wall of sound process "to create something that sounded fresh."[8]

A major part of the work was Manson rewriting the song lyrics, which Vig said the band attempted to "write from a woman's perspective and I think, initially, some of them were a little pretentious. But as soon as Shirley came on board she simplified the lyrics so that they were a lot more subtle and worked better as songs."[12] Manson detailed that regarding the previous song sketches, "some of the ideas for lyrics I found unsuitable, and others I liked and worked on with them. I always went to bat for what I believed in." [18] The singer added that because "the lyrics take a while to work on" bandmates would give suggestions and she included the ones that fancied her.[19]

Composition and style[edit]

Sample of "Stupid Girl", showing the pre-chorus and first part of the chorus. The music is based around a drum sample from The Clash, and this part of the song incorporates sound effects such as a broken DAT tape.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Garbage has a sound that "tr[ied] to incorporate different styles and genres, throw it all into a big melting pot and see what would happen", according to Vig.[12] Vig explained that as in his opinion "the most exciting bands are those who incorporate all those elements of punk, funk, techno, hip hop, etc." Garbage would attempt to do the same and "take those influences and make them work in the context of a pop song.”[20]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated that the album "has all the trappings of alternative rock -- off-kilter arrangements, occasional bursts of noise, a female singer with a thin, airy voice, but it comes off as pop" due to the "glossy production" of drummer Vig. Erlewine characterized the sound of the record as "slick and professional", full of "well-crafted pop songs", including "trashy alternative pop gems" like "Queer" and "Vow".[21]

The A.V. Club categorized the album as "a prototypically '90s record full of pumped-up, electronically enhanced, sample-laden pop-rock songs."[22] Newsweek remarked that the album "has an impressive swirl of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and swanky pop hooks that actually push alternative rock in a new direction"[23] About.com's Tim Grierson commented that the album "was steeped in alt-rock, but hits like “Only Happy It Rains” had a dance element to them that distinguished the band from many of their angst-rock peers." Grierson also further categorized the album as "dance-rock" and "techno-rock".[24]

Gil Kaufamn of Addicted to Noise described the album as a "surprisingly non-guitar rock mix of ambient noise, shifting trip-hop beats, grinding jungle rhythms and an ocean-size chunk of buzzing noise that, somehow, gels and rises above the din thanks to catchy hooks and killer song construction."[25] Metro Weekly characterized the album as "a heavy mix of electronic pop and guitar rock with samples, electronica and trip-hop beats thrown into the mix."[26] Billboard noted that "acting on the premise that more is more, foursome Garbage thrashes out power pop with enough skill and passion to rate among the cream of the alternative crop. First single "Queer" is a modern rock success, and other cuts -especially "Only Happy When It Rains", "Stupid Girl", and "Supervixen"- are capable of keeping interests high. Proof that success can come from the oddest combinations."[27]

The band went overboard with experimentation, with Erikson adding that throughout they liked to include “sounds that we found accidentally, like Steve’s sample of a tape deck backing up, or the bit in ‘Stupid Girl’ that was initially a mistake, but when we slowed it down, actually fit the timbre and pace of the song and became the hook.”[8][28]

The lyrics on the record were described by the bandmembers as "a collaborative psycho-therapy session wherein personal demons of various sizes and importance are exorcised, vilified, taken revenge upon and laid to rest." Vig said they tried to deal with "dark themes that I think a lot of people can relate to in some way or another", which included voyeurism, hedonism, perversion, obsession and "the art of self-destruction."[28] Manson stated that while the content was "a lot more poppy" than most of her previous work, the songs ended up describing the dark side of her nature, as "sometimes I'm a bit wee creepy, and that definitely comes out in the music."[29] The singer also declared that the music "unlocks sensations and feelings that you keep inside, that society doesn't allow you to show", saying that the gist of a mean-spirited song like "Vow" is very real despite "none of us hav[ing] ever really acted on those feelings".[19]

Release and promotion[edit]

In United States, the album was preceded at alternative radio by "Vow". Despite not being able to actively promote the single, Almo Sounds issued Garbage on August 15, on CD, cassette and double-vinyl.[30]

In the United Kingdom, Garbage was preceded by the single "Only Happy When It Rains". Mushroom Records issued the album on CD, cassette, double-vinyl and a limited edition 7" box set.

In Australia the album was released by White Records, who on September 23 issued a 'Tour Edition' of the album containing a bonus disc of remixes and b-side "Alien Sex Fiend".[31]

Chart performance[edit]

Garbage took a while to reach high charts in North America, which Vig considered was "because I don't think it's cool to say you're in a pop band in the States. To be truly PC, you have to be in the grunge zone."[32] The album debuted at #29 on the developing artists Top Heatseekers album chart.[33] Four weeks later, the album debuted at #193 on the Billboard 200,[34] as "Queer" impacted at Modern Rock.[35] In November, Garbage launched their first North American tour,[36] which drove "Queer" to #12 on the Modern Rock chart[37] and Garbage to climb to #127 on the album chart[38] and spend four weeks at #5 on the Heatseekers chart.[39] The album dropped off the Billboard 200 at the start of December.[40] At the start of January 1996, "Only Happy When It Rains" was serviced to alternative radio;[41] as Garbage re-charted on the Billboard 200 at #183.[42] At the start of March, Garbage peaked at #2 on the Heatseeker chart.[43] A week later, the album broke into the top half of Billboard 200 for the first time,[44] as "Only Happy When It Rains" peaked at #16 at alternative radio.[45] The album had sold 238,000 units by this point.[30] "Only Happy..." peaked at #55 on the Hot 100 at the start of May[46] as Garbage was certified Gold by the RIAA for shipping half a million units.[47] A week later, the album reached #47 on the Billboard 200[48] before dropping to #73 in June[49] as "Stupid Girl" impacted Modern Rock.[50] At the end of the month "Stupid Girl" reached the top ten at Modern Rock[51] while Garbage ascended into the top forty of the Billboard 200 for the first time.[52] At the end of July, Garbage was certified platinum for shipping a million units,[53] and a week later peaked at #20 on the album chart.[54] "Stupid Girl" peaked at #24 on the Hot 100 in September;[55] by which time Garbage had doubled its weekly sales to shifting around 40,000 units[56] and remained in the top thirty of the Billboard 200 for two months.[57] Almo serviced "Supervixen" to alternative[58] before releasing "Milk" as the last single from the album; however alternative radio picked up on "#1 Crush", which was licensed to the soundtrack of Romeo + Juliet, and sent it to #1 at the end of the year.[59] Garbage dropped to #78 in December,[60] before rebounding to #47 at the start of February 1997[61] on the back of the success of "#1 Crush".[62] Garbage clocked up its 81st and last week on the Billboard 200 at the start of May 1997 when it bowed out at #191.[63]

In Australia, Garbage debuted at #5 on the ARIA album chart. In New Zealand, Garbage debuted at #11.[64] Eleven months after release, Garbage topped the New Zealand albums chart and peaked at #4 in Australia.

Garbage debuted on the UK Album Chart at #12 with first week sales of 9,409 copies. A week later the album dropped to #26 before falling out of the Top 40. The album re-entered the album chart at the start of 1996 and climbed steadily as "Stupid Girl" hit #4 on the UK Singles Chart at the end of March. The album subsequently peaked at #6 [65] and remained in the top ten until May.[66] Garbage left the Top 40 in October, and recharted at #34 at the end of the year. Garbage was issued on the MiniDisc format on March 20, 2000[67] and re-charting in the UK for the final time in July of that year.[68] As of May 2012, the album has sold over 700,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[69]

World tour[edit]

See also: Garbage tour

Vig stated that the band had no initial plans to tour as "not going on the road would really free us up to record tons of stuff". As the bandmembers realized "that if we were going to have a successful record we'd have to go out on tour and promote it",[8] and enjoyed playing live to record the "Vow" video, they decided to perform to audiences as well.[30] To perform the complex and layered tracks live, the band hired Los Angeles bass player Daniel Shulman for the tour, and figured out ways to trigger samples on stage, such as having Marker play a keyboard along with his guitar.[8]

On February 24, 1996, Garbage set off on a 17-date headline tour of North America.[70] Garbage then joined Smashing Pumpkins as support on their North American arena tour from June 25, although the support slot was cut short due to the death of Pumpkin's keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin on July 12.[71] Garbage returned to Europe on August 3 promoting Garbage with a month of shows around the festival circuit.[70] Garbage then headed south to Asia and Australia to promote the album, beginning with shows in Singapore on September 28 and ending in Osaka, Japan on October 18.[70] Garbage returned to the US to give Garbage a final push by rejoining the Smashing Pumpkins rescheduled tour from October 23.[70]

Reviews, accolades and nominations[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[21]
BBC (positive)[72]
Entertainment Weekly A[73]
The Guardian 4/5 stars 10/01/1995
Kerrang! 5/5 stars 09/30/1995
Music Week 5/5 stars 30/09/1995
NME (8/10) 09/23/1995
Q 4/5 stars 10/01/1995
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[74]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[75]
Select 4/5 stars 10/01/1995
Spin (7/10) 10/01/1995

Garbage was a commercial success upon release. The album was certified silver by the BPI on January 1, 1996 and gold one month later. It was certified double platinum on May 1 for UK sales of over 600,000.[76] In the US, the album was certified gold by the RIAA on January 5 and was eventually certified double platinum on February 24, 1999 for shipments of over two million units.[77]

Garbage had also been certified double platinum in Canada,[78] Australia[79] and New Zealand and gold in France, Denmark, Ireland and Singapore.[80] It was also certified gold in the Philippines on June 20.[80]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Garbage, except where noted. 

No. Title Length
1. "Supervixen"   3:55
2. "Queer"   4:36
3. "Only Happy When It Rains"   3:56
4. "As Heaven Is Wide"   4:44
5. "Not My Idea"   3:41
6. "A Stroke of Luck"   4:44
7. "Vow"   4:30
8. "Stupid Girl" (Garbage, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) 4:18
9. "Dog New Tricks"   3:56
10. "My Lover's Box"   3:55
11. "Fix Me Now"   4:43
12. "Milk"   3:53

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M.
New Zealand Albums Chart
number-one album

October 20–26, 1996
Succeeded by
Ænima by Tool

Release history[edit]

Date Territory Label Format Edition(s)
Aug 15, 1995 Canada Almo Sounds CD, Double-LP, cassette Standard edition
United States
Aug 29, 1995 Europe BMG CD, cassette
Sept 4, 1995 Australia White Records
New Zealand
Oct 2, 1995 United Kingdom Mushroom Records UK CD, Double-LP, cassette,
limited edition 7" box set
Oct 21, 1995 Japan BMG Victor CD Titled G, includes two bonus tracks
Nov 17, 1995 France BMG France Standard edition, b/w Rare Track Collection bonus disc
Jan 30, 1996 Korea BMG Han Kook Standard edition
Sept 23, 1996 Australia White Records Double-CD Limited Tour Edition, with five bonus tracks
Jan 8, 1997 Japan BMG Victor/White Records
Mar 25, 1997 Korea BMG Han Kook Limited edition bonus disc, with four bonus tracks
Singapore BMG/White Records
Apr 14, 1997 France BMG France CD Limited edition, b/w bonus "#1 Crush" bonus disc
Germany BMG Ariola
Spain BMG Espagna/RCA
Apr 23, 1997 Japan BMG Victor Titled G - New Edition, with two bonus tracks
Nov 26, 1998 Japan Titled G - New Edition, with two bonus tracks (reissue)
Nov 29, 1999 France BMG Deluxe digipak edition
United Kingdom Simply Vinyl Double-LP Standard edition, pressed on 180gm heavyweight vinyl
Mar 20, 2000 Mushroom Records UK MiniDisc Standard edition
c.2000 Europe PIAS Recordings CD Standard edition (reissue)
South Africa David Gresham Records
South America Universal Music
Australia Festival Mushroom Records
Aug 22, 2001 Japan Sony Music Int'l Titled G, includes two bonus tracks (reissue)
Oct 1, 2001 Russia and CIS BMG Russia Standard edition (reissue)
Nov 23, 2003 Worldwide
(ex. North America)
A&E Records
Feb 28, 2005 United Kingdom A&E Records Digital download Standard edition
Oct 4, 2005 France Warner Music France Double-CD Packaged as Garbage: 2CD, with Beautiful Garbage album
Sept 1, 2008 United Kingdom Rhino Entertainment Packaged as Garbage: 2 In 1, with Version 2.0 album
Oct 24, 2008 South Africa

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