I Hold A Force I Can't Contain
NOTES: Garbage is my favorite band.
1=bad, 2=average, 3=good, 4=great
Temptation Waits is the first "upgraded" showstopper in Garbage's
arsenal, beamed in from outer space and distorted like a fuzzy satellite
dish transmission at judiciously selected intervals. Throbbing, dancehall-
tested metallic beats wrapped in a sparkling outer coating make it an
infectious treat that's leagues beyond anything on the previous CD. Half
the chorus is warped unrecognizably (I had to look up the lyrics) but it's
complementary instead of hindering. Shirley sings about temptation itself,
which is the perfect, alluring subject for such a hyper, shape-shifting sonic
I Think I'm Paranoid is lovingly remembered for the hurricane-strength
guitar blasts descending the chorus, but it's unmistakably a pop confection
to the core. The entir e production glides forward with gleaming efficiency
thanks to virtuosic studio wizards Butch, Steve and Duke. What's actually
amazing though is that what amounts to an industrial anthem for Raymond
Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate became a hit single and temporarily
cemented Shirley's status as modern rock's preeminent glam-gal.
When I Grow Up upholds Version 2.0's manifesto of positioning its front
woman as a bipolar black widow who's "on a cruise to freak you out".
Tossing a few aspects of someone's life (maybe hers, maybe yours) into a
blender, this tune sprays them out verse by verse in a more calculated,
pedestrian manner than usual. On the other hand, in a switch from the
dominatrix/rock star swaggering of erstwhile selections to something a bit
more submissive, Shirley keeps us guessing which of her Jekyll/Hyde
personalities we're in store for next. I love this woman!
Medication is a hymn for those who've had to take pills to keep from
sinking lower. Languishing in life, Shirley tries to survive while relying on
prescription remedies that only placate her boiling temperature. "Nobody
gives a damn about me or anybody else" she moans, hoping to attain
solace through the admission that "I've got to make a point these days/to
extricate myself". The only downside is that despite superior songwriting,
its grimy acoustics and hi-tech cacophony grate on the ears.
In Special, Shirley shuns a fool who has done her wrong with a polished
fusion of harmonious, layered vocals and swirling power chords. She's
learned a little from her indiscretions in Garbage: instead of remaining
spiteful she just laughs in her former lover's face: "Now you're here and
begging for a chance/there's no way in hell I'd take you back". The entire
fling has sapped her interest and refreshingly, this time she has her back
turned and door slammed. It's an upbeat admonishment of people who get
our hopes up.
Hammering In My Head is pure blazing energy, with lightning-quick tempo
shifts and devastatingly sexy lyrics about one of Shirley's hottest bedroom
romps. The guys reinforce her with an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink
approach; flooding every single second with a seamless battery of drum
loops, beeps, thuds, whirrs, hums, pings, clicks and whatever additional
racket they were able to program into their hardware. Each line comes
without warning and words tumble over one another like an avalanche of
naughty thoughts. This could be Shirley's most alpha-female
accomplishment to date, barely commenting on her sexuali ty (just
sweating it out to remind us what she's capable of). Bonus points for
containing my all-time favorite lyric: "I'm overworked but I'm undersexed".
Is Push It the zenith of Garbage's twelve-year run? Well, there's no
denying the seismic thrust of its fiery, pounding chorus. The beats are
pushed harder here than in anything else by the foursome so on the basis
of pure pandemonium, it's the greatest. Moreover, the verses are insanely
memorable ("This is the noise that keeps me awake/my head explodes
and my body aches"). After cresting over a hundred tiers of interlocking
melodies, it all disintegrates into a vortex of unrestrained power,
permanently burning the phrase "push it" into our memories.
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing: Slowing it down a notch, Shirley cautions
against the usual jackasses but this time, she tells us, the solution is to
calm down, cool off and try again later. The old X-Files catchphrase "Trust
No One" is modified slightly and used repeatedly to sustain Version 2.0's
conspiratorial undertones. Every so often the deep, aqueous grooves stifle
some mercurial gasps for air. As the music fades we can hear the girl who
"knows the human heart/and how to read the stars" learning to carefully
inhale and exhale (ad nauseum).
Dumb is a solid-as-granite thrasher that starts off well and marches
competently along until its rousing conclusion. I enjoy hearing how
misunderstood Shirley is ("You should get to know me better/no one's ever
what they seem") but soon she switches gears and insists we're better off
not peering inside her ("Now that you know what you know/I bet you wish
you could let it go"). The unfortunate scattered splicing of discordant radio
interference becomes quickly aggravating, however.
Sleep Together advances the progressive, voyeuristic unveiling of Shirley's
sexual appetite. The lyrics have a hilariously dirty subtext ("If we come
together/we'll go down forever") that practically undercuts the earnestness
on display. Fortunately there's a killer guitar arrangement that goes a long
way to salvaging this seduction quandary. A letdown when compared to
"Hammering In My Head", the fact is there's not much being said in "Sleep
With Wicked Ways, Shirley has scribed everything she plans to say at the
rapture. Its pulpy, radioactive vibe suggests the ambience of a bar in hell.
We discover our femme fatale's baggage equals the full cosmic weight of
Judgment Day plus the Earth's entire atomic payload. The rollicking chorus
("Clutch your pictures of the Pope/pray to God for love and hope/bring the
Virgin home for luck/bolt the door down, keep it shut") elevates this sinful
explosion to new heights.
You Look So Fine is a bittersweet sendoff and a major improvement on its
compatible predecessor, "Milk". There's plenty to appreciate, from a slinky
piano loop interlaced with the requisite keyboard circuitry to a full minute of
the soundtrack dissolving sans vocals. Shirley has never been sultrier and
her mood swings are more pronounced than before ("You've got me
tethered and chained/I hear your name and I'm falling over" contrasted
with "I won't share it like the other girls/that you used to know"). She's
lonelier by the "happy end" of this sequel than she was on the eponymous
debut, leaving behind a tangible sting of longing and apprehension.
Best: Push It
Worst: Sleep Together
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