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Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Colin LarkinColin Larkin


This US-based rock band, founded in 1993, was immediately heralded in the press as a producers’ supergroup. In addition to several other notable bands (Smashing Pumpkins, U2), Butch Vig (b. Bryan David Vig, 2 August 1957, Viroqua, Wisconsin, USA) had previously produced Nirvana’s influential Nevermind. He formed Garbage with the help of his long-standing remixing partners Steve Marker (b. 16 March 1959, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA) and Duke Erikson (b. 15 January 1953, Nebraska, USA), with whom he had been involved in the bands Spooner and Firetown. To this core trio was added singer Shirley Manson (b. 26 August 1966, Edinburgh, Scotland), recruited after the members saw her fronting her former unit, Angel Fish, on a video shown on MTV (she had previously sung with the unheralded Goodbye Mr Mackenzie).

Garbage’s debut single, ‘Vow’, issued in a metal sleeve, was widely acclaimed, as was the follow-up, ‘Subhuman’. Both borrowed from various traditions, notably punk, glam rock and art rock, with Vig commenting: ‘We want to use all these different elements like techno, punk and noise, ambient, jazz and rock, and mix them all up around a pop song.’ This eclecticism was further explored on their 1995 self-titled debut album, a dark collection of songs with the main emotions being fear, lust and envy. Symptomatic of these concerns was ‘Only Happy When It Rains’, which reached the US and UK charts when issued as a single. Further UK chart entries came with a remix of ‘Milk’ (featuring Tricky as guest vocalist) and ‘Stupid Girl’, a US Top 30/UK Top 5 success.

Garbage’s unexpected global success (especially in America) delayed the recording of their follow-up as they committed themselves to a relentless touring schedule. In the interim, the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack song ‘#1 Crush’ reached the US Top 30. When Version 2.0 finally appeared in 1998 the band gained further praise for their compelling blend of slick electronic pop featuring Manson’s emotive vocals. The album topped the UK charts in May 1998 and generated the hit singles ‘Push It’, ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, ‘Special’, ‘When I Grow Up’ and ‘You Look So Fine’.

In 1999, Garbage was commissioned to write the theme tune to the new James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough, giving the band another UK Top 20 hit. Their third album, 2001’s Beautifulgarbage, lacked the stand-out singles from the earlier releases but was nevertheless another highly impressive collection. The album’s commercial failure prompted a lengthy hiatus during which the various members concentrated on other matters. They returned to the studio in 2004 to complete an album for new label Geffen Records. While hardly breaking any new ground, Bleed Like Me was a slick, impeccably performed and produced collection of modern rock songs. In September 2005 the band announced they would be taking an extended hiatus after completing their Australian tour.


  • Garbage (Mushroom 1995) ٭ ٭ ٭ ٭

  • Version 2.0 (Mushroom 1998) ٭ ٭ ٭

  • Beautifulgarbage (Mushroom 2001) ٭ ٭ ٭ ٭

  • Bleed Like Me (Warners 2005) ٭ ٭ ٭


  • Absolute Garbage (A&E 2007) ٭ ٭ ٭ ٭


  • Video (Mushroom 1996)

  • Absolute Garbage (Interscope 2007)

See also Smashing Pumpkins, U2, MTV, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, Tricky, Geffen Records, Garbage - Garbage, Garbage - Version 2.0.

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