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Garbage In, Garbage Out 

Recipe for topping the charts

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Normally, bands don't sit well with the suggestion that the music on their album feels a bit scattered or schizophrenic.

In the case of Butch Vig, drummer for Garbage, that might be just the kind of opinion he wants to hear about his band's latest CD, Beautiful Garbage.

"It's very much a collection of 13 sort of schizophrenic songs," said Vig. "It's probably pretty much of a roller-coaster ride for someone to get into it for the first time," he said. "But hopefully as you listen to the record, on repeated listens it starts to make sense."

The truth is, rather than being a detriment, the variety is a primary fascination of Beautiful Garbage. That's because the songwriting is strong throughout much of the CD.

A few tunes, such as "Shut Your Mouth," "Breaking Up the Girl" and "Silence Is Golden," seem like logical extensions of the catchy pop, programmed beats and bracing guitar that defined previous Garbage songs such as "Stupid Girl" and "I Think I'm Paranoid."

From that foundation, though, Beautiful Garbage branches out considerably. "Can't Cry These Tears" is a lush pop tune that features Phil Spectorish cinematic production. "Drive You Home" is a delicate ballad that pairs singer Shirley Manson's restrained vocal with gentle guitar and full-bodied harmonies. "Til The Day I Die" blends elements of Euro-dance and jagged rock.

Manson, in particular, has blossomed into a more versatile vocalist, while her lyrics show a wider emotional range.

But what's ironic is that when Vig founded the band six years ago, many people in the industry viewed it as anything but a smart career move.

The producer of such groundbreaking alternative rock albums as Nirvana's Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream, Vig was one of the most in-demand producers in rock.

Garbage, on the other hand, was anything but a sure bet to succeed. The three boys in the band had a shared history. Vig and bassist Steve Marker had been in a band called Firetown, while Vig and guitarist Duke Erikson shared time in a group called Spooner.

But none of them knew of Manson until they happened to see her in an Angelfish video and decided she was exactly the kind of singer they needed for the band. Whether Manson would mesh on a musical or personal level with Vig, Marker and Erikson was anybody's guess.

"A lot of people told me I was crazy to do that, to start a band, because if the album failed, it would be have been my ass on the line," said Vig. "But I didn't really think of it in those terms. I was excited about being in a band and making music with my mates, and also working with Shirley. We were just really excited about what she brought to the equation."

These days nobody questions Vig for starting Garbage. The band's first two CDs, Garbage (1995) and Version 2.0 (1998), have both sold upwards of 4 million copies worldwide.

Vig and the other boys in the band don't mind that, as the group has developed, Manson, with her dynamic stage presence and outspoken nature, has come to be seen as the band's focal point and the person who sets the tone musically for Garbage, even though all four band members are involved in the songwriting.

"We don't really have a problem with that," Vig said. "It's a natural progression when you have someone who looks good on stage and can sing well and (has) the lyrics and the voice. The frontpeople in bands get the attention."

To Vig, Manson is just naturally suited to take on the demands that come with fronting a band and being a media magnet. "She's a showoff. She loves attention," Vig said. "She's also very emotional and opinionated, very brutally honest. She's very complicated and sometimes very difficult to deal with. But I love working with her because there's never a dull moment. Every day it's a rollercoaster ride. It's not boring."

-- Alan Sculley

capsule

Garbage with Abandoned Pools

Paramount Theater, Denver

Monday, May 20, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $30-$35, 520-9090.

  • Recipe for topping the charts

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