Garbage Biography and Profile

garbage rock band not your kind of people
Garbage. Photo courtesy BB Gun Press.

Garbage Overview:

Garbage came to prominence in the mid-to-late ‘90s as a cutting-edge electronic-rock band that dabbled in dance rhythms and pop sensibilities. Fronted by the alluring, punk-ish Shirley Manson, Garbage found commercial success with their first two albums before losing momentum after the start of the 21st century. The band have discussed possibly reforming in 2010, hopefully adding a new chapter to the group’s sexy, moody oeuvre.

Garbage's Origins:

Initially, Garbage were most famous because of member Butch Vig, who in the early ‘90s had become a superstar producer thanks to his work on Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing PumpkinsSiamese Dream. Vig formed Garbage with two other producers: Duke Erikson and Steve Marker. Looking for a singer, the band discovered Manson, who at the time was part of a group called Angelfish. Manson left the group and became the frontwoman for this new project.

A Flirty, Dance-Rock Debut:

The band’s 1995 debut, simply called Garbage, was steeped in alt-rock, but hits like “Only Happy It Rains” had a dance element to them that distinguished the band from many of their angst-rock peers. Manson’s overt sexuality also separated Garbage from other modern-rock groups; while there certainly were other female-led bands at the time, few were as flirty as Garbage. Within a year, Garbage had gone platinum and the band had received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

A Polished Follow-Up:

Three years later, Garbage returned with Version 2.0, a more streamlined approach to the techno/dance/alt-rock sound of their debut. More accessible and polished, Version 2.0 was another commercial success, but some of the novelty and rough edges of the first record were missing this time around.

Still, “Push It” was a catchy slice of pop-rock, while “I Think I’m Paranoid” mixed modern rock and techno in clever ways.

Toying With the Formula:

For 2001’s Beautiful Garbage, the band tried to shake up their formula, turning to pop, garage-rock, and girl-group R&B for inspiration. It resulted in a nervier, more adventurous record, but Beautiful Garbage lacked the confidence of the band’s first two albums. The disc failed to launch any major singles, and its mediocre sales signaled a downward turn for the band.

Problems Start to Arise:

Before Garbage released their next album, 2005’s Bleed Like Me, Vig left the band for a short while before eventually returning to the fold and completing the record. Incorporating New Wave influences and featuring Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl on drums for “Bad Boyfriend,” Bleed Like Me had an undeniable urgency to it, but it was hard to shake the suspicion that Garbage’s sonic assault had lost its freshness. Shortly after the album’s release, the group announced their hiatus.

A Possible Reunion?:

In February 2010, Manson dropped hints in a Facebook post that the band might be returning to the studio to work on their first album in five years. No official statement was released by Garbage, but fans were hopeful that the band would soon release their fifth studio record.

Then in October, Manson announced that Garbage were indeed working on a new record with the hope of doing a tour in 2011.

'Not Your Kind of People':

On May 15, 2012, Garbage released their fifth album Not Your Kind of People, their first disc in seven years. The album reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The band debuted the lead single, “Blood for Poppies,” on March 19. Garbage supported the album with a year long world tour in 2012-2013. Former Jane's Addiction member Eric Avery played bass on Garbage's tour. In May 2013 Garbage released their first concert film DVD One Mile High... Live.

Garbage's Debut Album Rerelease and '20 Years Queer' Tour: 

On October 2nd, 2015 Garbage released the Deluxe 20-year edition edition of their 1995 self-titled debut album, which was re-mastered and features remixes and previously unreleased alternate versions of album tracks.

In October and November 2015 Garbage played 27 world tour dates for their '20 Years Queer' tour, named after one of their earliest singles.

Garbage Lineup:

Duke Erikson - guitars, keyboards
Shirley Manson - vocals
Steve Marker - guitars
Butch Vig - drums

Essential Garbage Songs:

"Only Happy When It Rains" (Purchase/Download)
"Stupid Girl" (Purchase/Download)
"#1 Crush" (Purchase/Download)
"Push It" (Purchase/Download)
"I Think I'm Paranoid" (Purchase/Download)

Essential Garbage Album:

From the strutting riff that kicks off the opening track, "Supervixen," Garbage announced itself as a sexy, kinky rejoinder to the loveless, angst-heavy alt-rock of the mid-'90s. Shirley Manson was a strikingly carnal lead singer, but she was no bimbo, bearing her fangs on desperate, riveting songs like the battle-of-the-exes dustup "Vow." Considering that the band boasted three producers among its members, there was little surprise that Garbage was a feast of superb studio musicianship, but its intense emotions and slithering desire certainly knocked modern-rock fans for a loop.

Garbage Discography:

Garbage (1995)
Version 2.0 (1998)
Beautiful Garbage (2001)
Bleed Like Me (2005)
Absolute Garbage (greatest-hits collection) (2007)
Not Your Kind of People (2012)

(Edited by Bob Schallau)