Absolute Garbage Label: Geffen
It’s a bit ironic that Butch Vig, the producer of one of the biggest grunge albums of all time (Nirvana’s Nevermind), would enjoy so much success as a member of Garbage, one of the bands that swooped in to capitalize on the post-grunge vacuum in the mid-‘90s. In 1991, U2’s Achtung Baby proved that there was a market for rock riffs over dance beats, so a few years later, Vig (a Wisconsinite) put together a band that included Shirley Manson, a feisty, Scottish-born singer who gave the group an attractive look, a sultry voice and a connection to the UK market. Ten years and four albums later, this odd mix of musicians has moved 14 million units worldwide, and when the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2005, there was little doubt that a greatest hits collection was soon to follow.
Absolute Garbage gathers 16 of the band’s 22 previously released singles, plus one new single, the moderately enjoyable “Tell Me Where It Hurts,” and an unnecessary remix of Bleed Like Me’s “It’s All Over But the Crying.” It’s a bit strange that bands are still tacking on a new track or two to hits compilations in an effort to squeeze another $15 from their hardcore supporters. Don’t they know that most sensible fans are simply going to download the tracks, legally or illegally? Regardless, Absolute Garbage does a nice job of covering most of the bases, with five tracks from both Garbage and Version 2.0, and two tracks from both Beautiful Garbage and Bleed Like Me. Two soundtrack cuts also appear – “#1 Crush” from Romeo + Juliet and “The World Is Not Enough” from the James Bond movie of the same name.
The compilation is presented chronologically, which underlines the changes the group made from album to album. To be palatable to the grunge crowd, Garbage was a bit rough, while Version 2.0 was more polished. Beautiful Garbage was experimental and Bleed Like Me was supposed to be the band’s return to a harder sound. All the hits are here, and while none of the excluded singles are truly missed, it would have been nice to see a few album cuts – namely “Supervixen” and “Temptation Waits” – get some well-deserved attention. But Absolute Garbage is a paint-by-numbers compilation and the band is careful not to color outside of the lines. It’s a good disc for casual fans that never got around to buying the original albums or for new fans that are curious about one of rock’s biggest post-grunge acts.