The Vinyl Brew: Garbage - Version 2.0

The Vinyl Brew: Garbage - Version 2.0

The Vinyl Brew: Metallica - Ride the Lightning Reading The Vinyl Brew: Garbage - Version 2.0 6 minutes

Version 2.0 by Garbage

By Eamon O'Neill

Was there a cooler band in 1995 than Garbage? Sure there was the electro dub of Leftfield, the post-grunge quirkiness of Presidents of the USA, and Radiohead had just released their undeniably excellent second album ‘The Bends’. Maybe White Zombie were a contender, with their final hurrah; the monstrously brilliant ‘Astro Creep: 2000’, as was Paul Weller, who was reaching new heights in his solo career with ‘Stanley Road’, and of course Alanis Morissette, who was about to go global with ‘Jagged Little Pill’, but there was just something about the band featuring three record producers and striking red haired singer that made them stand apart.

Formed in 1993 by Butch Vig, the man behind the desk on Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Siamese Dream’ and Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ no less, the producer added studio veterans and multi-instrumentalists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker to create a band with almost unparalleled credentials. All they needed was the right front person. Enter striking Scotswoman Shirley Manson, whose fiery hair was matched by her snarly, punky, take-no-crap attitude. With a voice filled with character that could veer from understatedly soft to aggressively assertive, the Edinburgh-born singer was the perfect choice to front the band.

What followed was 1995’s critically acclaimed self-titled set that sold four million copies and produced four top-forty singles, peaking in the top ten in the U.K. albums chart. Similar success arrived stateside, and returning to the studio for their second effort in 1997, rather than reinvent themselves, Garbage opted to stick with their winning formula and return with a literal version 2.0.  

Though Vig had worked with the icons of the grunge and alt rock scene, his vision for Garbage had been to steer away from that world towards a more contemporary, edgy version of pop, and like the debut, the perfectly titled ‘Version 2.0’ was music for the 2000s and beyond; laden with samples, drum loops, keys and tastefully appropriate, yet crushing guitars, all with a deliberately clinically contemporary production.

Announced with the perfect dystopian pop of lead single ‘Push It’ which arrived a fortnight before the album in May 1998, it confirmed that little had changed in the three years since their debut. Infectious melodies, moody vocals, programmed beats; it was business as usual. 

When the album arrived, listeners were greeted to the the trippy loops and electronic beats of opener ‘Temptation Waits’ - this album’s ‘Supervixen’ - with Manson convincingly delivering lines like “I am a wolf but I like to wear sheep’s clothing”, and “I like to keep you guessing”. Sonically as tight as a metronome, but with juddering drums and off-kilter start / stops, it was unconventional in approach, and undeniably Garbage. 

Singles ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, and ‘When I grow Up’ followed; the former with deceptively meek and melodious verses that gave way to power chord heavy guitars in its earworm chorus; the latter, a dizzying disco anthem over which Manson delivered more of her black lyrical content.   

Darkly cinematic, ‘Medication’ preceded what is among the album’s standouts, the emotive ‘Special’. Going from sunshine and rainbows in its verses, it flipped in its choruses with an aching melancholy over which Manson implores; “I thought you were special / I thought you should know”. Peaking at No.15 in the U.K. chart in October 1998, it was a moodier single than anything else released from the album.

Flipping to disc two, and following ‘Push it’, the chillout class of ‘The Trick Is to Keep Breathing’ offered a change of both pace and mood. Gliding along on a slinky bassline - the album is loaded with them - and offering another deeply melancholic melody, Manson proved once more that her stirring vocals could make the hairs stand on the back of the neck with ease. It’s simply haunting, and may just be her finest performance on the album.

Elsewhere, ‘Dumb’ continued in a similar vein to ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, while the vampish ‘Sleep Together’ was as seductive as its title, and the bouncy ‘Wicked Ways’ was a bit of throwaway staccato fun.     

Finally, ‘You Look So Fine’ recalled previous album closer ‘Milk’, with similar introspective aching. Tugging at the heart strings once more, its cinematic scope closed out what remains one of the band’s best albums.   

Ultimately, repeating the formula proved a huge success, with ‘Version 2.0’ reaching No.1 in the U.K. and going top ten in Ireland. Released at a time when vinyl was at its nadir, rare original pressings now fetch up to €150, however the album got a limited 2LP reissue in transparent blue vinyl in 2023. There’s also a two-disc standard black vinyl version available.    

If ever there was any doubt that Garbage had firmly made their mark on mainstream pop culture, then the invitation to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, and Duran Duran in recording a James Bond theme in 1999 dispelled that notion, assuring their status among the greats. Despite a brief hiatus a few years later, they’re still with us today, and seven albums in, continue to make great music, with latest set ‘No Gods No Masters’ released in 2021.   

Those early days however are what they’re best remembered for. Give this and their equally as good debut a spin and see why.


Album Details
Version 2.0 was released on 11th May 1998 and is available to buy at Vinyl8.

Disc 1
1. Temptation Waits - Garbage (4.37)
2. I Think I'm Paranoid - Garbage (3.38)
3. When I Grow Up - Garbage (3.25)
4. Medication - Garbage (4.08)
5. Special - Garbage (3.44)
6. Hammering in My Head - Garbage (4.52)

Disc 2
1. Push It - Garbage (4.03)
2. The Trick Is to Keep Breathing - Garbage (4.12)
3. Dumb - Garbage (3.50)
4. Sleep Together - Garbage (4.03)
5. Wicked Ways - Garbage (3.44)
6. You Look So Fine - Garbage (5.25)

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