Our new recurring column ‘Lest We Forget’ is devoted to revisiting albums that have been unfairly overlooked or marginalized within the broader critical and commercial context of our favorite artists’ discographies. We hope that our recollections shine a newfound light on these underappreciated gems from the past, and as always, we encourage you, our readers, to weigh in with your own perspectives and memories in the comments below.
The gristle-and-glam of Garbage’s “Why Do You Love Me?” was rock 'n' roll bold. The perfect Garbage single.
Shirley Manson (vocals), Butch Vig (drums, percussion), Duke Erickson (guitars, keyboards) and Steve Marker (lead guitar) were back on Bleed Like Me (2005), the album that “Why Do You Love Me?” calls home. But, the heat coming off of “Why Do You Love Me?” felt like a step backward from 2001’s beautifulgarbage, Garbage’s woefully misunderstood third effort.
It's a tale that’s been written and told. Leading rock act with an experimental pop heart is imprisoned by their genre. Said rock act sets themselves free to make music not beholden to where they originated from and suffers the consequences. However, beautifulgarbage did not start off as a self-liberating, creative coup d'état. Initially, the project was envisioned, on the sidelines of the Version 2.0 World Tour, as an assemblage of B-sides. Record label shuffling scuttled the idea, but it ended up as a glorious example of artistic serendipity for Garbage, as the band had recorded some new material at this time too. That music shared an affinity to the vibrancy of their smashing Bond theme “The World Is Not Enough” from October 1999 and pointed to a triumphant, semi-departure from the formula of their previous LPs.
beautifulgarbage still contains some of Garbage's familiar post-modern punk sneer―see “Shut Your Mouth” and “Silence is Golden”―but the album engages in “pop play” too, which opens up their adamantine alt-rock framework to new elements. These sonic variables include, but aren't limited to, electro-rock funk (“Androgyny,” “Til the Day I Die”), new wave (“Cherry Lips”) and vintage Brill Building balladry (“Can’t Cry These Tears”).
September 2001 saw “Androgyny,” accompanied with its scintillating Don Cameron directed video, attempt to hype the crowd for beautifulgarbage, which came closely behind its lead single. Though the record's critical reception was mostly positive, it didn't resonate commercially. “Cherry Lips,” “Breaking Up the Girl” and “Shut Your Mouth” bounded off the record to bolster its market value, fine singles all. Their chart landfall was modest.
Garbage retreated from what some perceived was a supposed creative miscalculation with Bleed Like Me and Not Your Kind of People (2012), albums that had the group sharpening their dependable hard-hitting sound. However, sonically speaking, those two LPs failed to excite the aural palate the way beautifulgarbage had. That all changed with 2016's Strange Little Birds, with its sound arc that cast an affectionate glance backward to the unsung adroitness of beautifulgarbage.
It's apparent now, outside of the glare of varying expectations Garbage was subject to at the height of their popularity, that beautifulgarbage is a Garbage album that is more than capable of pulling its own weight in their beloved canon. And it's most definitely worth a second spin.