“Absolute Garbage”

Absolute Garbage_Shirley Manson

By Jae-Ha Kim
July 24, 2007

Released in conjunction with a CD of the same name, Absolute Garbage is a collection of 15 music videos from the rock band Garbage.

Fronted by Shirley Manson, whose smooth and distinctive voice is equally adept at purring as it is growling, the group also includes drummer Butch Vig, guitarist Steve Marker, and bassist Duke Erikson.

But make no mistake about it: The visuals are all about the photogenic Manson.

It was their breakthrough single “Only Happy When It Rains” that made an impact on both radio and MTV in 1995.

Manson, who at the time resembled a fierce, red-headed version of supermodel Kate Moss, appears on screen in a blue minidress that matches her eye shadow and nail polish, and knee-length Doc Martens. Interspersed between random shots of extras dressed like Teletubbies, deconstructed bathrooms, and her bandmates (who are musically gifted but not particularly video friendly), Manson pleads her case for being happy when things “are complicated.”

That her dress changes in color to pink is almost incidental in the vignette, and “Only Happy When It Rains” manages to marry both arty intentions with a rock ‘n’ roll cool vibe that doesn’t come across as either clichéd or lofty.

Between 1995 and 2007, when Absolute Garbage was released, the band broke up and got back together a handful of times. But there is a cohesiveness to their look and sound, even as it evolves, that makes them distinctively Garbage.

They worked with some of the era’s most popular video directors. Fashion photographer Matthew Rolston succinctly captures the mood of “I Think I’m Paranoid,” while Samuel Bayer (best known for his work with Nirvana) helmed “Vow,” a simple performance piece that captures the band’s raw energy.

Actually, it’s the concert style videos (“When I Grow Up”) where the band seems most at home–commanding a stage.

While some of the videos are widescreen, the majority are full screen. But all of them pop on the TV screen with their vivid imagery and vibrant colors.

The DVD also includes a documentary called “Thanks for Your Uhhh, Support,” that weaves in home videos, news clips, and concert footage.

While the band’s music indicates that Garbage formed organically, it wasn’t quite that simple. The three men–all music producers living in Wisconsin at the time–saw a video of Manson performing in a different band and sought out the Scottish singer to front their group. They were smart enough to know that no matter how talented they were, they needed a voice–and face–to define them.


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