Playing God
Garbage – Version 2.0

garbage’s third album, Beautifulgarbage, was everything that the band had been on the first two go-rounds: a blend of pop sensibilities, slightly-taboo subject matter, and…wait…love? Naturally fans and critics were confused: this was the band with the issue-riddled leading lady, right? Hadn’t Shirley Manson come to tear our little world apart, to expose the strangest of the strange, and wasn’t she only happy when it rained? What were we supposed to do when she came around in 2001 singing songs with lines like “I will love you ‘till the day that I die” and “Nobody wants to feel alone”? How could their self-titled album of such noisy rock and roll thrashing and angst and self-loathing lead us to Beautifulgarbage?

Allow me to play cartographer for one moment: when one wants to get from one point to another (geographically speaking), one must examine the going in between to navigate one’s journey. Aha!

This would lead us to examine 1998’s Version 2.0, an album that has come to much revere in the years since its release. Its blending of then-alternative guitar tunes with the heavier-handed production of Butch Vig. This album discovered that Shirley could do more than melodic shouting over melodic noise…this woman could flat-out carry a tune!

The track list for Version 2.0, though carrying some themes throughout, doesn’t really lend itself to any thoughts of bridging the gap between our inauguration and our destination, though. So we’re going to have to dig deeper: after a brief re-organization of many of the album tracks, the discarding of four tracks (“Hammering In My Head,” which is the only truly unlistenable track on the album, “When I Grow Up,” “Sleep Together,” and “Dumb”), and three new inclusions (taking the track list from twelve to eleven), we can find an album that takes us from where we left with our harder-edged fix on Garbage to our not-as-noisy-with-a-little-more-sugar-on-top dessert, Beautifulgarbage.

Hell, if you get drunk enough, you might even find a narrative.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

01. Thirteen X Forever (B-side from Special single)
An interesting (and angrier) new way to break the ice, but it contains some of the heaviness of the guitars from their debut, while slipping in an introduction of their newly-acquainted taste for electronics. But we’re too busy basking in the wonderful noise in the chorus to notice too much. Easy does it, one step at a time…

02. #1 Crush (From Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack)
Maybe doing a song for Baz Luhrman should have been proof enough that they were eventually going to foray into pop? Anyway, this spotless dark track gives us our first glimpse of our love, except in a star cross’d alliance hinting at self-destruction. But we are eyeing pop music from across the room, and it is a sexy beast. Don’t worry, things will get better. But as they say, before things can get better…

03. Temptation Waits (Album Track)
Well, it’s not going to get any worse just yet. It is, however, going to get a lot more neurotic. Like that creepy guy/girl that won’t leave you alone and seems to be waiting for you around every corner, our crush has turned into a self-destructive obsession that we don’t want to get rid of or let go of. No good can come of this…

04. I Think I’m Paranoid (Album Track)
I kept this transition from the album, as it is almost a perfect fit. The hard guitars are back, trying to smack some sense back into us for being so mistrustful that some new sound would inhabit this headspace of ours that Garbage is situated in. It ends off on an almost-peaceful reassurance. I believe that is commonly referred to as the calm before the storm.

05. Push It (Album Track)
Placing this track here serves two purposes: 1) It takes it away from being criminally buried within this album’s regular track list; and, 2) It provides our little story with its inciting force. It’s our newly acquired love crush of lush pop production going in guns blazing against our strong angsty guitars. But in this battle, neither side comes out on top. We simply end up crashing at the climax. Not quite a nullifying crash, but some severe damage has been done. How are we going to pick up the pieces, you ask?

06. Medication (Album Track)
Through the good ol’ modern North American method: a prescription! This certainly gets us back on our feet, but it certainly doesn’t solve the problem. We’re still aloof, dizzy, and confused about what’s just happened. But just because you take Allegra, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have allergies anymore. And just as a hyperactive little boy in love with destruction but grounded by Ritalin would, we want out of this medicated state.

07. Special (Album Track)
And nothing can get us out of an unhappy dazed state like a false truth. We are now taking what we have and denouncing our infatuation with melody (though with lines like “I thought you were special / I thought you should know / That I’ve run out of patience / I couldn’t care less,” we’re not very convincing) in favor of our distorted six-strings (which sound as if they are fading fast). But we are determined to keep lying to ourselves, and we are fighting it with all we have.

08. The Trick Is To Keep Breathing (Album Track)
And apparently, all we have has caused is a major setback. So we get this wonderfully dreamy track to revitalize our spirits. It’s during the fade out at the end until we can realize that not one jackhammer guitar plague us through the whole tune. Yet instead of panic, we hear our own breathing at the end of the track. And surprisingly……it’s calm, cool, even collected. Could we really be giving over to this?

09. Wicked Ways (Album Track)
Nope. After all, even though we have just been through rehab, we are a weak and fickle type. We go after our drug of choice and embrace it like no other. And we rub it in our #1 crush’s face, because it seems like a good idea at the time, or maybe because we just don’t care because we are too messed up to know any better. It’s our last shot at the normalcy we once knew. And we finally spiral out of control…

Then we wake up the next morning, and the guilt hits us almost as heavily as the hangover does. And we all understand that a night like this can only be followed by hard times filled with absolute regret for what we have done.

10. Kick My Ass (From Sweet Relief II compilation)
And now we beg for forgiveness. We come crawling back to pop music, on our hands and knees and lobby for pity. But pop is a merciful soul, and she sympathizes with the struggle that we have been through. He/she is so sorry that they had to kick your ass, but they are certainly glad that we have come back. Pop is kind to us all, and as such it offers us……

11. You Look So Fine (Album Track)
…this mother of a closer. Its sound plays as someone emerging from an emotional low and bestows a softness upon us with striking ambience and soothing piano keys. We have picked ourselves up from rock bottom, and we have given in to what was a jolting idea at first. Garbage is playing pop music and though it was a tumultuous transition, we can see that it is beautiful.

By: Matt Sheardown
Published on: 2006-01-09
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