Review Summary: Third time's the crap.
After Version 2.0
and handling the James Bond theme, Garbage where in the throes of a dilemma. They couldn't deliver another album of the same industrial alt-rock with techno influences. It would make them look like one-trick ponies (which they are, but that's beside the point). But their attempts at branching out ranged from horrible disasters ("When I Grow Up") to passable (the aforementioned "The World Is Not Enough").
They decided to soldier on, scrapping most of the industrial rock and delivering the cra
ppy mess known as beautifulgarbage
. This is the album where they lived up to their once-ironic name.
The album overall
On this album, Garbage are overwhelmed by their pop inclinations, dispensing mostly with their trademark intensely constructed techno-industrial-rock, and instead churning out disappointing pop/new wave knockoffs and by-the-numbers rock lacking their early spark. Maybe they tried to strip down their sound and prove they can deliver without massive overdubs, but the effect is distinctly more Hot Space
than News of the World
Shut Your Mouth
is the opening number. Notice anything? Yes, this doesn't sound like old-school Garbage at all. The verses have a two-note guitar motif and the trademark booming drums, but this is the first song where they actually try to create some space (*insert Hot Space pun here*
) instead of bludgeoning the listener senseless with oppressive overproduction. The refrain lacks any energy as a result of this change, with the guitars in particular sounding neutered. The lyrics are horrible and ridiculous. "We don't even give a fu
cking damn/Shut your mouth/Try not to panic" - yes, it's reassuring to hear a band admit they didn't put any effort into creating the first song on the album
and telling you not to panic. It augurs so
well for the rest of the album.
does not bring any quality songwriting to the table. Relying on a tired whooshy synth motif (Turkish influences anyone?) and R'n'B/hip hop-influenced verses with another blunted chorus that lacks power. Such a pity, the refrain's riff is actually good. Somebody please recycle it, it doesn't deserve to be stuck in this mess. And the text is once again stupid and lacking in subtlety. Look, I know they claimed a Prince
influence, but that's not an excuse for bumbling, heavy-handed, stupid metaphors about freedom through androgyny.
Can't Cry these Tears
begins with a loud drumfill that includes a timpani (!!) and launches into the most hamfisted, self-parodic, formulaic Garbage ballad about post-breakup traumatic disorder ever written. It relies on a cheesy chord progression and some out-of-place cutesy harmony vocals from Shirley. The lyrics are clumsy and the production is pure sonic overkill during the chorus, which makes the stripped-down verse sound jarring. It's the worst song on the album by a long stretch.
'Til the Day I Die
begins with some breezy layered hip-hop drumloops and some gratingly bad scratching of the chorus, then launches into the verse. Well, the rock-oriented verse is a respite from the tired forumla of "trip hop verse + hard rock chorus". Funnily enough this song so far works as a sort of pastiche of new wave, and a self-assured vocal performance that doesn't sound like posturing at all. Sadly this is all undercut by the mismatched refrain, which piles on the clichéd lyrics with a vengeance, all married to a thoroughly generic guitar melody. I must point out the irony of the lyric "No fun anymore", something which is definitely true about the entire album. So, in the end, the verse is really cool and catchy but the chorus is bad, resulting in an average track.
Cup of Coffee
opens with some classical-influenced piano lines that were probably left on Queen
's cutting room floor back in 1991, and turns into an emotional stripped-down ballad. The minimal production (piano and synth strings) suits the song well at first, until the band decides after a minute to crash the session. Unfortunately at 1:46 the band sees it fit to add an initially discordant, heavy-handed string arrangement that leaves a sour note and fu
cks up what was a spacious, emotional ballad. Luckily the violinists' swollen hands are remedied, and the song quickly becomes good. An early highlight.
Silence is Golden
is yet more lumbering, clumsy rock with has a cra
ppy recurring guitar motif and bland, generic lyrics ("I have been broken/Safe in my own skin"). The ethereal verses are pretty well realised with a nice melody, even if they're just run-of-the-mill Garbage, but are ruined by the hamfisted refrain which trips over its own feet every single time. The bridge with excessive guitar noise sounds like an attempt to mollify outraged listeners who think the band lost their edge. A resoundingly average and boring track.
begins with some chunky synth action which sounds like a demo for some synth. Shirley elects to sing this song in a very girly tone in her higher register, which does not come across all that well, and certainly doesn't mesh well with the music. The main chorus relies on yet another mediocre guitar riff and loud mechanical drumwork from Butch Vig. The claps employed throughout are annoying and pointless. The "You hold a candle in your heart/To shine the light on hidden parts" suffers from sugar overdose as the band adds a jangly harp synth which only makes the song sound even worse. Did Garbage choose to combat boy bands by imitating them? This song pretty much says "yes". A completely misguided piece of shi
t, it gives "When I Grow Up" great competition for the title of Worst. Garbage. Song. Ever.
Breaking up the Girl
has a title that was probably nicked from Blood Sugar Sex Magik
. Sadly, it's yet more pop rock, complete with even more unfitting cornball vocal "do-do-doo-do-doo"s. But somehow, the song turns good during the verses, possibly thanks to the appropriately minor-key guitar melodies. For some reason, they've added more clapping in the chorus, which only sounds totally pointless. A below average song, without even a good hook - the main riff only becomes memorable through incessant repetition. That's not mentioning how the stupid "do-do-doo" part shows up with a vengeance at the end.
Drive You Home
is like an oasis of quality amidst a wasteland of mediocrity: another atmospheric, soaring ballad. Its core is a somber, heavily reverbed guitar riff, which perfectly complements Shirley's defeated, resigned tone. There are no distorted guitars to be found anywhere, which is a good decision on the band's part, as they wouldn't have fit into the song's overall feeling. Instead they use This Mortal Coil
-esque reverbed guitars and cello. There are also no cringe-inducing lines. Another high note on the album.
begins with a sampled guitar riff and launches into the main verse, which is more of the same boilerplate pop-rock we've heard throughout the album: syrupy, happy chord progressions, faux-powerful drumming, generic beats, laughable lyrics. "Oh let’s bomb the factory/That makes all the wannabes"? You'd have more credibility saying that if you didn't place it over the poppiest arrangement to be found on this whole wreck. Garbage and all-out pop never mix. A mediocre song that invites subconscious skipping.
Nobody Loves You
has a guitar riff that is slightly reminiscent of "#1 Crush" played over some rather frantic drumming from Butch, and a creepy, slightly overblown trip-hop based production that works somewhat well even though we've all heard this before and there's nothing new here. It isn't even executed all that well. Overall the track is thoroughly ordinary, but in terms of quality it's an improvement over its lackluster predecessor.
. How long before they exhaust their bag of stereotypical song titles? They've certainly exhausted their suppply of stereotypical lyrics here ("You play so safe/And you're not risking enough/You're doomed to be undone/I swear I'll be the one/To bring you down"; "You've got something to say/You say it to my face/And be a man about it/You got a problem with me/Don't go behind my back"; "You'd best beware a woman scorned/Cause no one’s untouchable"). This song begins with a hip-hop beat, and for the verses relies on a pizzicato string and reversed guitars. Okay, the reversed guitars are a nice touch. The refrain employed is heavily hip-hop oriented and comes off as unintentionally humorous, that's how ludicrous it sounds. Overall the song sounds completely spent and below average.
So Like a Rose
functions almost like an apology for the desultory nature of the album: a graceful, understated ballad. It's maddening to think Garbage dumped a 12-track load on everybody yet took the time to honor their tradition of impressive album closers. And what an impressive album closer it is - the Sears Tower to the Marianas Trench that is beautifulgarbage
. The song begins in a low-key manner with a melancholic two-chord guitar riff. Once again the vocals are performed in a subdued, defeated style which enhances the song's overall atmospheric, depressed tone. The chorus has a slightly more hopeful overall feel, relying on reversed sitars and piano. The production is to be commended - the band actually introduce every element more subtly here, as opposed to their previous practice of suddenly shoving them in the listener's face (with the exception of the heavy guitars which come in at 2:54). "So Like a Rose" takes a sudden turn at 4:46 and launches into a beautiful, triumphant coda relying on massively reverbed vocals, and slowly fading out from there. A victorious closer to this entire mess.
In the end? Think of beautifulgarbage
as Hot Space
: in both cases a band abandoned its trademark sound to experiment with something different, ended up with a pile of *** that just so happened to have maybe two or three good tracks and one majestic, excellent album closer. Avoid this album, but download the final song.
: "Cup of Coffee", "Drive You Home", "So Like a Rose"