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October 25, 1995

Take Out the Garbage

GarbageGarbage, Garbage (Almo Sounds 1995) - Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, the founders of A & M Records (now owned by Polygram), have formed a new record company, Almo Sounds (distributed by Geffen), to continue their musical vision.

One of their first signings is the talented Garbage, fronted by angel-with-a-switchblade singer Shirley Manson and featuring super-producer Butch Vig on drums and sound processing. With a sound that ranges from pop to grunge to synth-driven modern rock, Garbage delivers the goods.

Producer Butch Vig is, of course, best known for his work on Nirvana's Nevermind. Vig has also produced albums by Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and Soul Asylum. Vig would prefer to put Nevermind behind him, saying, "It affected so many people and changed the music business, but I don't want to get caught up in that. To try to put a perspective on it is scary."

In addition to Vig and Manson, the band also includes Duke Erikson on guitars, bass, and keyboards, and Steve Marker on lead guitars. Garbage's voice is Shirley Manson of Edinburgh, Scotland. Manson is a refugee from the Scottish band, Angelfish, whose 1994 debut on Radioactive Records was one of last year's best album.

Vig lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he attended the University of Wisconsin and met Duke Erikson. Garbage was originally formed in 1993. Says guitarist Marker, "If it was up to us, we'd write about drinking beer and driving around in Camaros."

Shirley MansonEnter singer Manson, who flew into Madison while Angelfish toured the U.S. Their first collaboration didn't gel. Says Marker, "She was nervous, and we were nervous, and it was a disaster." But, adds Vig, "She had the balls to come back. The last thing we wanted was somebody we could manipulate. To some of the lyrics she would say, 'I can't sing this bloody crap!'"

Vig continues. "Shirley sometimes sounds scary, sometimes dreamy, sometimes sexy, sometimes psychotic. What more could you ask for?" Answers Shirley, "It makes me feel good when someone says I sing my heart out. That's what music is about - freedom."

Manson adds with a laugh, "What did I add? A bad temper? There were just certain things I wouldn't sing about, and other songs I wanted to change the perspective...I find the most normal people full of excess and rebellion. Weirdness lurks in the most unlikely corners.

Shirley Manson"Our common ground was a certain melancholy and an interest in the perverse. It's easy to be morose and hard to be happy, but by the end of recording, I felt we might do something totally la-de-da. We never did. Maybe the next album will be more jolly."

Jolly or not, Garbage (which features an extra-cheesy cover) is a terrific 12-song debut. From hard rockers like "Supervixen" and "Not My Idea" to the grungier, feedback-filled "As Heaven is Wide" and "Vow," Garbage never stops.

My favorite tracks include such modern rockers as "Queer" and "Stupid Girl," both of which show roots in the British dream-rock sound. In particular, "Stupid Girl" is a great cut, and one that should receive plenty of air play.

Bands are funny things, and often hard to hold together. There's lots of people who want a piece of Butch Vig, and singer Shirley Manson is developing into one of the hottest new properties in the business. Garbage may be a one-off project, but it stands on its own. For real rock, with no bullshit, get this disc.

Junior HighJunior Brown, Junior High (Curb Records 1995) - For this five-song EP (which clocks in at only 16 minutes), country crossover star Junior Brown struts his stuff. Featuring Brown's custom-made guitar (which is a doubleneck six string and steel guitar), Junior High displays the many talents of the 43-year-old Brown.

Brown grew up in Indiana, and became interested in country music at an early age. He cites country legend Ernest Tubb as one of his main influences; Brown also taught guitar under Leon McAulliffe, the legendary steel man for Bob Wills Texas Playboys, in the mid-80s.

After years as one of Austin, Texas' best-kept secrets, Brown released two albums on Curb records. Twelve Shades of Brown and Guit With It helped establish him as a crowd favorite from Texas roadhouses to the hippest clubs of New York City and Europe.

Junior High features two new cuts ("That's Easy for You to Say" and "Lovely Hula Hands"), together with three Brown favorites; the playful "Highway Patrol" (a song that deserves a ton of radio air play), "My Wife Thinks You're Dead" (no explanation needed), and the lightening fast "Sugarfoot Rag."

Brown's a hugely talented guitar player; few have mastered both the six string and the steel guitar, and fewer still can play both on one axe. Junior High may be short, but it's a treat.

-- Randy Krbechek

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