Almost Beautiful

In 1995, when Garbage's self-titled first album mixed a post-grunge sound with heavy metal chords and lead singer Shirley Manson's sensual, intimidating voice, the result was a fresh and logical deviation from the earl '90s. It was one of those albums that got better with age.

In 1998, with Version 2.0, Garbage dropped the metal for a decidedly techno sound, Manson's lyrics grew darker and her voice became even sexier. The result was widespread critical praise, commercial success and a Grammy nomination for best album. The band seemed to be coalescing into a leader of the mainstream electric-rock movement.

And then, in 2001, there was Beautifulgarbage--a schizophrenic effort that is as electronic and cutting edge as it is bubble-gum-pop and banal. The beats are fast and furious on "Shut Your Mouth" and "'Til the Day I Die"--and they evoke the best of the band: Manson's bad-girl-gone-worse lyrics and the band's energetic electric sound.

Flipping the coin over, tracks "Nobody Loves You" and "So Like a Rose" sound more like ballads from Britney Spears' cranky older sister (with much better lyrics) than the work of a band whose latest single, "Androgyny," suggests changing sexual orientation just to stay hip. One wonders if there may be a method to this madness--is Garbage making this schizophrenic sound and these pop-like lyrics in order to take a stab at the overdone, androgynous music of Britney and the boy bands? Manson is sarcastic enough to try it, and the sheer bliss of the words on "'Til the Day I Die" could fit on a really dark Christina Aguilera album.

Beautifulgarbage is not as pretty as pervious efforts, but the album shouldn't be thrown on the barge.



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