Garbage – Beautifulgarbage

Thehappiness of picking up “Beautifulgarbage,” the third album byShirley Manson-led Garbage (a band I’ve admired since their self-titleddebut) faded after several thorough listens. The in-your-face,sexy-yet-strong grunge vocals and lyrics of femme fatale Manson weretraded for a vulnerable, “stupid girl” sound.

While I’mall for a band reinventing themselves and trying new things, Garbagetook a wrong turn somewhere. A group that once had lyrics with punch,like “Vow’s” “You burned me out but I’m back at yourdoor/Like Joan of Arc coming back for more” has dumbed down to”Cup of Coffee’s” “So no, of course, we can’t befriends/Not while I’m still this obsessed.”

The firstsingle, “Androgyny,” is awkward, as is “Til the Day IDie,” the result of a band way too happy to receive a mixingmachine. Interspersing electronic sounds and giving Manson an androidvoice isn’t cutting edge, it’s annoying. (This CD is enhanced; put it inyour computer and you too can remix overmixed songs!)

Imagine mydismay when I heard “Cherry Lips” come on and the band’s lastredeeming quality – those sexy vocals – were gone. Instead, Shirleysports a higher-pitched voice, almost like that of a child (most likelyin reference to the lyrics, about a young girl gone back). The upbeatmelody contradicts the dreary subject, which may have seemed like a goodidea at the time, but isn’t.

The album does have its high points,and some tracks eventually grow on you. “Shut Your Mouth” isclassic Garbage: raw, powerful, angry, and outspoken. The hard riff in”Silence is Golden” reels you in and Shirley’s snarling voicespits you back out.

That fiery-haired, fair-skinned heroine ofgirls I once looked up to is now just a few steps away from being alovelorn teenager. “I just don’t care anymore/I’ve reached the endof the road” she wails, leaving this Garbage fan wondering if itreally is the end of the band I once knew, wondering if they’ve foreversuccumbed to pop music.

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