20-odd years ago, Jane and I were on the road, early Saturday afternoon, listening to Johnny Walker’s Radio 1 show – a regular jumping off point for new music.
This particular day, the show featured a new band, Garbage, playing a song, Milk, from their eponymous debut.
I fell in love immediately. That voice, those textures, that vibe.
With Britpop at its zenith, Grunge on its long, slow settling path, and Trip Hop on its subversive rise, here was a band that drew upon each yet truly didn’t sound like any other.
Here was a female lead who was beyond strong, an equal partner in the creative process.
Here were three older dudes, revelling in the crucible of classic instrumentation and cutting-edge innovation.
Amazingly, that one of them happened to have produced one of the greatest records ever was the least of the story.
My purchase of the debut CD was immediate.
A year or so later, my band Grope morphed into Bagpuss, with Ruth joining us on lead vocals. The decision to add a couple of Garbage songs to the set was just as immediate. We regularly played Only Happy When It Rains and Queer.
And here was where it got interesting, as a classic guitar/bass/drums backdrop, we didn’t have
access to the synths and loops to recreate the original feel. Yet, even stripping the songs back for our purposes, we found that the core was so strong that the trappings didn’t go amiss.
Queer became an almost bluesy groove, with me capo’d and playing the hook in amidst a picked chord
[much closer to Peter Buck or Johnny Marr than Duke or Steve]
but it WORKED.
On acoustic guitar, it WORKS.
And that’s the mark of Garbage, I think. It’s a band that just WORKS – in both the literal sense of the word, and their place in the musical pantheon.
While other bands have swam in similar waters
[I’m looking at you Republica and Sneaker Pimps]
to varying degrees of accomplishment, few have stood the test of time. Yet, Garbage returned in 2012 with a fantastic record: Not Your Kind Of People – mature, thoughtful, playful; a tour de force.
Long may Shirley, Butch, Duke and Steve continue to be not our kind of people, long may they find happiness in the rain, long may they remain the queerest of the queer.
Happy 20th birthday, Garbage.