Garbage landed into the primordial swamp of mid-90s US grunge like a glowing piece of silvery alien space junk. An electro-rock pod constructed by three major alternative producer types – Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig – and fronted by sultry, snarling ultra-vixen Shirley Manson, formerly of Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, they sounded modernist, sleek and sci-fi, like a Ray Bradbury vision of grunge rock.
Mecha-goth-pop singles like Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains were refreshingly at odds with the rock music of the age – machine-tooled and mega-produced in an era when grunting in garages was de rigour – and this quasi-supergroup holed up in Madison, Wisconsin seemed to be laying rails of titanium to guide US rock towards the future.
It was so expertly armour-plated that 20 years on, little about it has dated. Fantastic opener Supervixen still packs a mighty stop/start punch, Manson hissing ‘I can take you out with just a flick of my wrist’ and ‘bow down to me’ like the cruellest dominatrix. The Siouxsie shuffle beats driving Not My Idea and the still close-to-the-bone Queer are as crisp and compulsive as ever.
Manson’s standing as a strident fem-pop icon is undoubtedly rooted in her depicting herself as ‘a little mouse… burning down your house’ – a role inherited today by Chrvches’ Lauren Mayberry – and her blood-on-the-perfume-counter takedown of the brainless Stupid Girl, but there’s more to this record that merely shattering gender boundaries.
While it failed to spark the new wave of electro grunge we’d hoped for, it certainly stuck a stiletto heel into the eyeball of the trad plaid set, daubed glitter on the industrial scene and showed Amerocka a bolder, brighter way. A worthy recycle.