Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Sound Familiar?

“Cut Your Hair,” “Range Life,” “Stereo”

Who Are They?

Those ‘90s indie darlings that only the cool kids listen to.

Once upon a time in California, S.M. and Spiral Stairs (a.k.a. Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg) got together to record some EPs. Drummer and occasional hippie Gary Young (who owned the studio where the EPs were recorded) was fairly impressed with their work, saying, “This Malkmus idiot is a complete songwriting genius.”

Around 1992, Pavement became a full-time band. Mark Ibold (one of the band’s earliest fans) joined on bass and Bob Nastanovich helped Gary out on drums. The band’s debut, Slanted and Enchanted, dropped the same year.

During the tour supporting the album, however, Gary started doing some peculiar (okay, batshit crazy) things. He handed out cabbage and mashed potatoes to fans, did handstands, drunkenly fell off his drum stool, and ran around onstage like a 2-year-old on amphetamines. By 1993, Stephen and company had enough. Gary agreed to leave the band and was replaced by Steve West.

After ditching Gary, Pavement released Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in 1994. The single “Cut Your Hair” was their closest brush with the mainstream, earning them airtime on MTV and alternative rock radio. Critics loved it, though music connoisseurs Beavis and Butthead termed it “buttwipe music.”

The album also stirred up a little controversy with the single “Range Life.” The lyrics (which Stephen has insisted are meant to be light-hearted) take a couple playful jabs at bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. (“On tour with the Smashing Pumpkins…I don’t understand what they mean / And I could really give a fuck / The Stone Temple Pilots, they’re elegant bachelors / They’re foxy to me, are they foxy to you? / I agree they deserve absolutely nothing.”)

STP didn’t really care about the mention, but Billy Corgan flipped a shit, going as far as refusing to play the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival if Pavement was also on the bill. (This beef still continues today, by the way. I love you, Billy, but you really need to let it go, man.)

Crooked Rain’s follow-up, 1995’s Wowee Zowee, ended up being a mishmash of punk, country, and ballads, often avoiding conventional song structures. In an interview, Stephen attributed his odd choice of singles to his pot smoking habit, saying, “I was smoking a lot of grass back then, but to me they sounded like hits.” Well played, sir.

During the tour, the boys opted not to work out a setlist. Instead, they played a couple hits, then went into drug-and-alcohol-fueled jam mode. That really didn’t fly with audiences, though. During shows at Lollapalooza, our heroes were pelted with mud and rocks and were forced to leave the stage immediately. Because of this hostile reaction, they dubbed themselves “The Band That Ruined Lollapalooza.”

By the time Brighten the Corners was released in 1997, Pavement was beginning to fragment. Though it sold better than its predecessors, the band decided that the next album (1999’s Terror Twilight) would be the last. Stephen wrote the entirety of Terror Twilight with only minor contributions from the rest of the band. (This was mostly due to producer Nigel Godrich’s favoritism with Stephen.)

After a particularly stressful tour (during which time relationships between members began to fray) and a disastrous appearance at the 1999 Coachella Festival (where Stephen refused to sing), Pavement called it quits.

Where Are They Now?

On good terms, at least.

Speculation about the possibility of a Pavement reunion circled for years after the breakup. Scott Kannberg told Pitchfork that a 2009 reunion was possible back in 2006. Once 2009 rolled around, Brooklyn Vegan reported that Pavement were scheduled to perform multiple benefit show dates in Central Park in 2010. The band confirmed the news, but firmly stated that a permanent reunion was not in the cards.

Pavement ending up doing a world tour, making festival stops at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Coachella, Sasquatch!, and Pitchfork. In September 2010, Stephen and the boys made appearances on The Colbert Report and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

After the tour wrapped up, fans and critics awaited the announcement of a new album/permanent reunion.

But it didn’t come.

Bob Nastanovich basically told Spin that Stephen wouldn’t write any more Pavement songs, so the band couldn’t continue.

But Why Pavement?

Why, indeed? Well, it was a pretty big deal for these guys to reunite, even for a short amount of time. I’m sure we’ll see more of them, just not as Pavement.

What Does Sam Think?

While I do preach about grunge, pop-punk, and riot grrrl (to an extent), I have to give huge props to the indie scene in the ‘90s. Thinking back to my previous entry on Blur, we wouldn’t have some of the super rad lo-fi hits like “Song 2” without bands like Pavement.

Oddly enough, that nostalgic indie sound has made a comeback in recent years with bands like Yuck. (Though that sound is a little tame compared to Pavement.)

What makes Pavement special (and not in that elementary school “everyone is special” kind of way) is their dedication to the indie scene. They never signed to a major label, but still managed to make it to MTV. They’ve got a significant cult following (the majority of which is made up of the entire Pitchfork staff) and are considered one of the most influential bands to emerge from the American underground in the ‘90s. Not bad, not bad.

While Pitchfork does build them up to be this hugely talented, unstoppable force (I’m sure the staff has rolled up magazines under their mattresses with Stephen Malkmus on the cover in place of the usual Playboy), I don’t think Pavement lets the praise go to their heads. Do I think they deserve the recognition they get from various publications? Of course. But I don’t think they’re the greatest band on the planet, much less the greatest band of the ‘90s (though they are up there with Nirvana and others).

But let’s not look at the big picture here. I’m not going to compare Pavement to other bands because I don’t think it’s possible to compare them to other bands. If anything, they kind of remind me of the bastard sons of the Pixies, though they were heavily influenced by The Replacements.

That definitive ‘90s sound that most bands of the decade seem to have is perfectly executed with Pavement. It’s noisy and snarky, and most definitely embodies the meaning of “alternative.” While grunge started underground and bubbled up into the mainstream, it eventually turned into a parody of itself. The best thing for an underground band to do (and I may sound like a music snob when I say this) is to stay underground. Pavement retained that indie purity, even into their later years.

Refusing a permanent reunion was also a good move. While Pavement is probably capable of churning out another great album, it’s best for them to quite while they’re ahead, lest they end up sounding like a sad attempt at recreating the good ol’ days.

For now, aspiring indie bands of today can study Pavement’s discography and learn a thing or two. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see another incarnation of Pavement in the near future.

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Sound Familiar?

“Song 2,” “Girls & Boys,” “Coffee & TV”

Who Are They?

Britpop titans who gave Oasis a run for their money.

This is a band I’ve only mentioned in passing (see my entry on Pulp), but now you loyal readers get to read the full story.

When childhood friends Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon met Alex James in 1988, they knew they had to start a band. The group (joined by drummer Dave Rowntree at a later date) called themselves Seymour, named after J.D. Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction. Food Records’ big boss David Balfe hated the name, so the band decided to change it to Blur.

While touring the UK in 1990, Blur released the debut single “She’s So High,” which gained them some attention from UK music journalists. Their subsequent single, “There’s No Other Way,” became a smash hit and Blur quickly became pop stars.

Unfortunately, the debut album Leisure, released a year after the handful of singles, received mixed reviews. Blur was then faced with the challenge of proving their worth to the music industry.

Then they realized they were £60,000 (roughly $94,000) in debt. Bummer.

Blur toured the US in 1992 in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. When the boys felt comfortable enough to release a new single (“Popscene”), no one was really interested. As a result, plans to record a second album were pushed back.

During the American tour, Damon and company became increasingly unhappy and upset by the success of rival group Suede. After performing poorly on the same bill as Suede at a 1992 show, Blur was in danger of being dropped by their record label.

By this time in their career, our British heroes had undergone an image shift intended to celebrate their British heritage. The band’s new manifesto was basically: “We’re not American, so we shouldn’t try to sound like an American band.” (Remember that grunge was the big thing at this time, so the best way for a new band to compete with something that powerful was to try a new angle.)

Blur’s metamorphosis into Britpop royalty began with 1993’s Modern Life Is Rubbish and peaked with 1994’s Parklife.

Modern Life Is Rubbish didn’t chart in the US, but Americans went nuts for Parklife. The first single, “Girls & Boys,” peaked at #5 on the UK singles chart and #4 on the US Modern Rock chart. Believe it or not, this is the band’s highest charting single to date, not “Song 2.”

Parklife became the band’s crowning achievement, earning them four awards at the 1995 BRIT Awards. The follow-up, 1995’s The Great Escape, was released around the same time as Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and ultimately sparked what would become “The Battle of Britpop.” (No, seriously. This is a real thing. I’m not making it up for comic effect.)

“The Battle of Britpop” referred to the chart battle between Blur and Oasis. Spurred on by the media, both bands were engaged in what NME called the “British Heavyweight Championship” (I wish I were making this up) when Blur’s “Country House” and Oasis’ “Roll With It” were released on the same day.

Blur won the battle (“Country House” sold more copies than “Roll With It”), but lost the war. Morning Glory sold way more copies than The Great Escape and Oasis ended up becoming infinitely more successful (at least commercially) than Blur.

Tensions mounted after the ordeal with Oasis and the band became bitter about the whole Britpop scene. Graham Coxon grew increasingly more annoyed with Damon’s control over Blur’s musical direction and made it a point to listen to noisy American alternative rock bands.

(I can imagine that playing out like this):

Damon: “So guys, we’re British and –"


The result was the deliciously lo-fi Blur, released in 1997. UK fans didn’t really get it, but Americans bought the hell out of it. “Song 2,” the album’s lead single, became a ‘90s modern rock classic and was used on every soundtrack, advertisement, and television show known to man.

Where Are They Now?

Reunited with a new album in the works.

After the release of 1999’s 13 and nine-month world tour, Blur went on hiatus. Graham recorded a handful of solo albums, Alex wrote some songs with Marianne Faithfull, and Damon created the Gorillaz.

After some time apart (and the departure of Graham), Blur released Think Tank in 2003. The album largely relied on instruments other than the guitar since Graham was apparently the only guy who could play guitar well.

Think Tank faired pretty well, but fans were antsy to find out when Graham would come back, as Blur felt incomplete without him.

In 2008, Graham reunited with his bandmates for two shows at Hyde Park. After a summer festival tour in 2009, the world began to wonder when new Blur material would surface.

But Why Blur?

You know that new Blur material you’ve been waiting for? Well, it’s coming soon. And your favorite British boys will also headline a gig at Hyde Park (along with New Order and The Specials) to celebrate the closing of the 2012 Summer Olympics on August 12, 2012.

Here's their newest song, "Under the Westway." (Do your best to ignore the screaming girls.)

What Does Sam Think?

I believe I’ve made my opinion on Britpop pretty clear (again, see the Pulp entry). It’s cool and everything, but it’s not my favorite music movement of the ‘90s. Britpop is a little too formulaic (though you could argue this with grunge and pop-punk as well), and it sometimes feels like people only like it because it’s “foreign.” I will admit that ‘90s Britpop was slightly more interesting than the Britpop resurgence of the 2000s, though (looking at you, Coldplay).

But let’s talk about Blur, shall we? Yes, their first three albums are great examples of pure Britpop goodness, but I’m gonna be that guy and profess my love for the self-titled album (yes, the one with “Song 2”). It’s a little rougher, but it doesn’t stray too far from the sound on Parklife. I love that Blur took a chance and tried to separate themselves from Oasis. The result was a refreshing lo-fi/Britpop hybrid album that made these guys into something more than pop icons.

Though Damon Albarn is the creative forced behind Blur (and his work with the Gorillaz is pretty fantastic as well), the shift in sound can easily be credited to Graham Coxon. If it wasn’t for his interest in American alternative bands like Pavement, Blur would forever be known as “those little Oasis wannabes.”

I think these guys are still capable of great things and I can’t wait to see where they’ll end up next.

Oh, and if you think “Song 2” is overrated, you’re lying to yourself. (WOO-HOO!)

-- Sam Boyer, reported from the ‘90s

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Green Day

Sound Familiar?

“Longview,” “When I Come Around,” “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”

Who Are They?

One of the bands responsible for reviving punk rock in the ‘90s (and can also be identified as this blogger’s favorite band).

Green Day began as Sweet Children, the project of long-time best friends Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt, in 1987. With original drummer John Kiffmeyer (a.k.a. Al Sobrante) serving as the band’s manager, the boys were signed to Lookout! Records and recorded their first EP, 1,000 Hours, in 1989.

Before release of 1,000 Hours, Billie Joe and the gang decided to drop the name Sweet Children in favor of the name Green Day (a slang term for a day spent smoking weed).

Green Day’s first full-length album, 39/Smooth, was released on Lookout! in 1990 (re-released a year later as 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours, which included songs from previous EPs). After their first nationwide tour, John ditched the band to attend college. The Lookouts’ drummer Tré Cool stepped up as a temporary replacement, but it soon became clear that he was the one element Green Day had been missing.

Green Day’s underground success with 1992’s Kerplunk! attracted the attention of a slew of major labels, and the band eventually left Lookout! and signed with Reprise Records.

The decision to sign to a major label was met with a pretty intense backlash from the Easy Bay scene. Green Day were regarded as sellouts and were basically banned from local punk hotspot 924 Gilman Street.

But no matter. Major label debut Dookie dropped in 1994 and immediately made a splash with audiences and critics alike. Singles “Longview,” “Basket Case,” and “When I Come Around” all reached #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. Holy commercial success, Batman!

Green Day also scored slots on both Lollapalooza and Woodstock ‘94’s lineups. (Woodstock ’94 was nicknamed “Mudstock” because of the band’s impromptu mud fight with the audience.)

After Dookie won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 1995, Green Day released its follow-up, the much darker and heavier Insomniac. Though not nearly as poppy as its predecessor, Insomniac still received high praise from critics.

Nimrod, an experimental deviation from the band’s standard pop-punk sound, was released in 1997. The album was comprised of a variety of musical styles, including surf rock, ska, and one acoustic ballad you may have heard of.

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” became Nimrod’s defining single and was played during every high school graduation, television show finale, and wedding reception in the world (which is pretty hilarious considering that the song is basically a big “fuck you” to the East Bay kids who called them sellouts).

Where Are They Now?

Still relevant and considered one of the most successful ‘90s bands ever.

After the surprise success of Nimrod and “Good Riddance,” Green Day went back to the studio and make back with Warning in 2000. Warning was a step further in the direction Nimrod had barely touched upon. Comprised of mostly acoustic songs pertaining to faith, hope, and social commentary, the album confused fans and critics.

This resulted in a decline in popularity and a supporting spot on the 2002 Pop Disaster Tour with blink-182. (Imagine Green Day opening for blink-182 now. You can’t. You just can’t.)

Two compilation albums (International Superhits! and Shenanigans) followed Warning, and Green Day went back to the studio in 2003. After completing 20 tracks for the album tentatively titled Cigarettes and Valentines, the band’s master tapes were stolen from the studio and our heroes were forced to start from scratch.

In the meantime, a mysterious band called The Network was signed to Billie Joe’s label Adeline Records. After the release of the band’s only album, Money Money 2020, it was rumored that The Network was actually Green Day in disguise. Neither band confirmed this (though it’s pretty obvious that The Network is, in fact, Green Day wearing masks).

After much soul-searching and hard work, Green Day released the “punk rock opera” American Idiot in 2004. The album follows the life of a fictitious character referred to only as “Jesus of Suburbia.”

American Idiot won the Grammy for Best Rock Album and 34389473 other awards and is widely considered to be Green Day’s magnum opus (though we can’t forget about Dookie).

Following the hugely successful American Idiot was another side project (Foxboro Hut Tubs) and the Butch Vig-produced 21st Century Breakdown. (Reasons why I hate 21st Century Breakdown can be found in the “What Does Sam Think?” section below.)

Perhaps the most unusual achievement of the band is a Broadway musical version of American Idiot. In 2009, Green Day met with director Michael Mayer and many cast and crew members of the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening to create a stage version of the album. Too ridiculous to work, right?

Wrong. American Idiot: The Musical was a smash hit on Broadway, much to everyone’s bewilderment. (Fun fact: Billie Joe appeared during the original Broadway run as St. Jimmy for a few shows. He was such a huge hit with audiences that they brought him back for a few more shows before the end of the musical’s Broadway run.)

But Why Green Day?

Billie Joe announced yesterday via Twitter that the band is back in the studio recording the follow-up to 21st Century Breakdown! Green Day debuted a few new songs at some secret shows in the past few months, but it hasn’t been confirmed that they’ll end up on the album.

What Does Sam Think?

I’ll try not to go full fangirl in this section, but you should still prepare yourself.

I’m well aware that not everyone likes Green Day, especially after American Idiot. I remember friends of mine calling them sellouts when “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was released as a single. You do realize that they were “sellouts” long before American Idiot, right? The term “sellout” refers to a band that signs to a major label, which is what happened when Green Day released Dookie on Reprise back in 1994.

But I’m not going to try to sway your opinion of this band or bully you into listening to their music. What I will say is that Green Day is a band that really stands apart from all the other ‘90s-era pop-punk bands.

How do they manage to do that? Well, they’re not afraid to change up their sound, and they’re not afraid to grow up. They had a winning formula with Dookie, but just one album later, they took a different route. (Just a side note: Insomniac is probably the most underrated Green Day album. It’s pure punk. We can fight about it later.)

The maturity shift between Dookie and Nimrod is also pretty impressive. “Good Riddance” was such a huge step away from the band’s familiarly snotty sound, and the fact that fans went apeshit over it says a lot.

Warning was fairly risky, but I wouldn’t say that it’s Green Day worst album (though I did used to hate it).

To be honest, my favorite album is American Idiot simply because it was crazy enough to work. (It also came out at a pivotal time in my life, but I won’t get all nostalgic and misty-eyed here.) The maturity in both the instrumentation and lyrics is almost staggering. I thought to myself, “Is this really the same band that sang about getting high and masturbating all day?”

American Idiot is smart, robust, and has just the right amount of political undertones.

21st Century Breakdown, on the other hand, took the political aspect too far. It’s a little too preachy and takes itself way too seriously. If American Idiot was told from the point-of-view of the disillusioned youth in Middle America, then 21st Century Breakdown is a cantankerous old hippie’s ramblings about the “good ol’ days.” The album has a few redeeming songs (“Peacemaker,” “East Jesus Nowhere”), but it crumbles under its own weight.

From what I’ve heard so far, the new album has the potential to be a return to “old school” Green Day. Rolling Stone reported that the band is laying off the political commentary for this one.

Since the length of this entry is probably killing you, I’ll end with this: Even if you hate Green Day, you have to admit that they’ve got massive staying power and a pretty catchy sound to boot.

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mazzy Star

Sound Familiar?

“Fade Into You”

Who Are They?

Probably the coolest dream pop/ambient/shoegaze ‘90s band ever. (Who wouldn’t want that title?)

Mazzy Star began as Opal, the psychedelic revival project of guitarist David Roback and his then-girlfriend Kendra Smith. The band was deeply rooted in the Californian Paisley Underground movement in the early ‘80s (much like the movement associated with the Haight-Ashbury district in the ‘60s, minus all the acid).

Kendra ended up leaving Opal (probably due to a messy break-up with David, though there’s really no proof of that), and Hope Sandoval took her place as lead vocalist. Opal became Mazzy Star and the band’s first album, She Hangs Brightly, was released in 1990.

She Hangs Brightly failed to make splash with mainstream audiences (though it did pretty well on alternative rock radio). After a record label switch to Capitol, Mazzy Star released the follow-up, So Tonight That I Might See, in 1993. About a year after the album dropped, “Fade Into You” emerged as an unexpected hit single. It peaked at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Mazzy Star failed to produce another major hit after “Fade Into You.” Apparently, audiences just couldn’t appreciate good shoegaze back in the ‘90s. The band’s final album, 1996’s Among My Swan, was the least commercially successful release, though it did produce “Flowers In December,” Mazzy Star’s highest-peaking single in the UK.

After a five-month tour supporting Swan, Hope reportedly “begged” Capitol to terminate her contract. Thus, Mazzy Star was no more by the end of 1997.

Where Are They Now?

Back together with a new album in the works.

Immediately after Mazzy Star’s dissolution, Hope began collaborating with The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Chemical Brothers. David ended up producing a few songs on Beth Orton’s 1999 album Central Reservation.

In 2000, Mazzy Star reunited for a small tour and hinted at a new album in the near future. That hint was obviously a lie since the album is set to drop later this year. Instead, Hope joined up with Colm Ó Ciosóig (formerly of My Bloody Valentine) to form Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. Their first album, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread, generally impressed critics.

In October 2011, Hope and David released their first new single as Mazzy Star in 15 years, the double A-side “Common Burn”/”Lay Myself Down.”

But Why Mazzy Star?

Their fourth studio album (and first new album since 1996’s Among My Swan) will be released later this year. In the meantime, Mazzy Star will embark on a festival tour, making appearance at Coachella and Primavera Sound.

What Does Sam Think?

Mazzy Star is one of many ‘90s bands that fly under everyone’s radar. This is understandable considering their musical style. Not everyone’s going to dig their laid-back sound. A lot of people may find it boring.

But it’s far from boring, guys. It’s textured, soulful, and just plain gorgeous. I do think you have to be in the right mood to appreciate it, though. When you’re pre-gaming for a party, your first thought probably wouldn’t be anything along the lines of, “Oh man, I’m so juiced for this party. I need some Mazzy Star in my life right about now. Hey, bro! Put on “Fade Into You”! And turn that shit all the way up!”

If you know anyone who actually says this, let me know so I can give them my number.

Anyway, Mazzy Star is a band that taps into your subconscious. They’ve taken the elements of psychedelia and folk rock to a deeper level. They can’t really be directly compared to other bands, but their sound stems from a mixture of The Velvet Underground and The Byrds. Though many bands in the Paisley Underground movement attempted this combination or something similar, Mazzy Star one-upped the competition with Hope Sandoval.

I know I talk a lot about vocalists on this blog, but that’s because I really pay attention to vocals. Hope has a very folksy voice and she doesn’t play up her range very often. While this may be seen as a “lazy” vocal style, it suits the instrumentals.

If you’ve never given Mazzy Star a try, I’d recommend listening to So Tonight That I Might See in a bath of warm water in the dark with some scented candles. It’s great contemplative music. Bathe in Hope’s voice. All your troubles will melt away.

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Sound Familiar?

“Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl,” “Special”

Who Are They?

A post-grunge tour de force featuring the “Nevermind Man” (a.k.a. Butch Vig) as a key member.

Butch and Duke Erikson had been a part of the music industry for years before the formation of Garbage. After producing Nirvana’s magnum opus (1991’s Nevermind), Butch sought to start on a new project, this time with a female vocalist.

One night, guitarist Steve Marker was killing time by watching a little MTV when he saw the video for Angelfish’s “Suffocate Me.” The band’s singer, Shirley Manson, immediately peaked his interest, so Steve invited her to join his band.

Angelfish disbanded, and after two auditions, Shirley became a permanent member of Garbage.

In an effort to avoid the grunge genre that had put Butch on the map, the band deliberately strove to make a pop record. After signing to Mushroom UK Records, Garbage released the first single, “Vow,” in 1995. Commercial alternative radio in the US picked up “Vow,” and it went into heavy rotation nationwide, debuting at #39 on Hot Modern Rock Tracks.

Garbage’s self-titled album debuted at #193 on the Billboard 200 in August 1995. Since Shirley and the gang signed with a UK record label (Shirley is Scottish), the album was received better across the pond upon its initial release.

“Queer” was released as a single in the UK, while “Only Happy When It Rains” became a single in North America. Once it was certified a “Buzz Clip” by MTV, “Only Happy When It Rains” gave Garbage that push into the mainstream in the US.

After a contribution to the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack (1996’s “#1 Crush”), Garbage received Grammy nods for Best New Artist, and Best Rock Song/Best Rock Performance for “Stupid Girl.” (They lost Best New Artist to LeAnn Rimes. Really?)

For their follow-up (1998’s Version 2.0), Garbage decided not to change their sound, as most bands feel obligated to do. Instead, they kept the same formula they had used for Garbage and pushed their sound as far as it would go. The first single was the aptly named “Push It.” Subsequent singles “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “Special” helped Version 2.0 earn two Grammy noms for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album.

Despite losing out on tons of Grammys, Garbage ended the ‘90s on top of the world. They had two successful albums and had hits in both the UK and the US, along with Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Germany. (I know every band dreams of being big in Lithuania. Don’t lie.)

Where Are They Now?

Back from the dead with their first new album in 7 years.

Garbage regrouped in 2001 to record their third album, Beautiful Garbage. After a short legal scuffle with their record label, the band signed to Interscope Records and released “Androgyny” as Beautiful Garbage’s first single.

The promotional schedule for the album was postponed due to the September 11 attacks, and Beautiful Garbage ended up suffering from this lack of promotion. It received mixed reactions from both critics and fans, but was somehow named one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Albums of the Year (not that Rolling Stone’s opinion on anything really matters.)

Garbage scored a supporting slot on U2’s Elevation Tour, but Butch ended up contracting Hepatitis A after the last North American show. Meanwhile, “Breaking Up the Girl” (not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers tune “Breaking the Girl”) was released as a single and eventually used as the theme song to the Daria TV movie Is It College Yet?.

The Beautiful Garbage tour was greatly hampered by the band’s health problems, with Shirley suffering from throat problems and poor Butch being taken off the tour twice (first with Hepatitis, then later with Bell’s Palsy).

Work on 2005’s Bleed Like Me was halted when Shirley underwent surgery on her right vocal cord. Due to rising tension and a breakdown in communication, Garbage slowly began to disintegrate. When Butch encountered eager fans dying to know how the album was going, he didn’t have the heart to tell them that the band was seriously considering a breakup. Instead, he name-dropped some possible titles for the album, which got him thinking that maybe Garbage wasn’t finished after all.

Bleed Like Me was a success, with lead single “Why Do You Love Me?” debuting at #39 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. But the effort of producing the album proved to be too much for the band. At the end of an Australian tour, Garbage confirmed that they were going on an indefinite hiatus.

Shirley began work on a solo album (which was never released) and Butch produced Green Day’s Grammy-winning album 21st Century Breakdown. But the universe sensed this hiatus was too great a disturbance, so Garbage convened once again.

But Why Garbage?

The result of this happy reunion is Not Your Kind of People, the band’s first album in seven years. Not Your Kind of People is set to drop on May 15. No new single yet, but check out this interview with Shirley (and marvel at her lovely accent).

What Does Sam Think?

Post-grunge is dangerous territory. Why? Well, if you’re a post-grunge band, you run the risk of sounding similar to every other post-grunge band (Candlebox, Collective Soul, Oleander, Creed, etc.). Or if your name is Dave Grohl, you can become ridiculously successful. If you are not Dave Grohl, you better have that extra special something that sets you apart.

Garbage has that special something. They’re the perfect mix of post-grunge attitude and electronic infectiousness. Steve Marker said it best: “We take pop music and make it as horrible sounding as we can.”

The music isn’t horrible in the sense that it will make your ears bleed. The “horrible factor” comes from the unconventional pop sensibilities. You’ve got rough electronic elements mixed with Shirley’s sultry vocals, a combination that seems to please people in a post-Nirvana world.

Garbage’s sound is a little dark, a little girly, but all-around original. Garbage and Version 2.0 are great examples of this. Bleed Like Me is much darker than previous albums, but it really doesn’t stray too far from Garbage’s signature sound.

I expect great things from Not Your Kind of People, though I know having high expectations can end in devastation (see my continuous disappointment in new albums from ‘90s bands, with the exceptions of Radiohead and Primus).

But when you have Butch Vig as a permanent member, you’re only allowed to produce great albums. He’s Nevermind Man, capable of topping the charts in a single bound!

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.