May 11, 2002
BY JIM DEROGATIS POP
Garbage is a band that only really does one thing, but it does it very
The Madison, Wis.-based quintet, which played a sold-out show Thursday
night at the Riviera, felt it owed something to Chicago, since its last
appearances here, opening for U2 in the fall, were derailed by drummer Butch
Vig's illness and a faulty guitar rig.
''We have something to prove to Chicago,'' announced the band's Scottish
firebrand, vocalist Shirley Manson. And the group proceeded to deliver--up
to a point.
The formula was set with the band's self-titled 1995 debut. It combines
Vig's percolating, largely electronic grooves and big swaths of
neo-psychedelic, ''shoe-gazer'' guitar noise with Manson's attitude-laden
vocals and catchy, new wave revival songs.
Think Debbie Harry jamming with My Bloody Valentine, or Chrissie Hynde
fronting Primal Scream.
The band's second and third albums, 1998's ''Version 2.0'' and last
year's ''Beautiful Garbage,'' were superior to the debut in that they seemed
less overtly derivative. They continued to build on the basic recipe, but
they added some additional spices with a little more variety and stronger
Performing on a stark but well-lit stage, an energetic and charismatic
Manson sampled material from throughout the group's career, including ''Only
Happy When It Rains,'' ''I Think I'm Paranoid'' and ''Shut Your Mouth.'' But
the band's generosity ultimately undermined it.
At 30 minutes, the set would have been brilliant. But stretched over 90,
the paucity of ideas began to annoy, especially given an especially loud and
brittle sound mix.
Vig's combination of programmed and performed rhythms isn't nearly as
innovative as Garbage seems to think it is, and after a while,
guitarists-keyboardists Steve Markes and Duke Erikson seem to have about two
basic riffs each.
It would have been nice to hear things varied a bit with some more
straightforward rock drumming (as a producer, Vig is renowned for crafting
great drum sounds for Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins). And I'd have
killed to hear a little unadorned acoustic guitar or piano, with Manson's
voice (sans electronic alteration) shining forth loud and clear on top.
A welcome move for the band in the future would be ''Garbage
Unplugged''--or at least with the electronic effects turned down a bit.
Opening for the group was Abandoned Pools, the new combo fronted by Eels
veteran and Los Angeles singer-songwriter Tommy Walter. The band attempted a
similar brand of electronically tweaked pop-rock, but the hooks were far
less effective, and Walter cut the set short, claiming to be losing his