Since 1993, Garbage has been delivering infectious and influential alternative rock with the vocals of the fiery, scarlet Scot herself- Shirley Manson- at the helm. The Scottish-American band got its start in Madison, Wisconsin when Manson joined forces with Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker to create a sound that would come to help entertain and define a generation in the late 1990s. With their debut album going double platinum in three countries- US, UK and Australia- Garbage burst onto the scene with undeniable momentum. Despite threatening several “hiatuses” over the years, Garbage hasn’t been able to keep their distance for long. So, after 21 years, six albums, and one greatest hits album, the band has produced plenty of memorable tracks that continue to strike a chord with fans of all ages. Here are our picks for the top 10 best Garbage songs.
This song was the last single released from the band’s self-titled debut album. The track features background vocals from trip hop musician Tricky and debuted at No.10 on the UK Single Chart.It’s dreamy and ethereal ambiance is hauntingly beautiful. The instruments swirl through the track ghostly against Manson’s emotional vocals.
9. "Cherry Lips"
Loosely based on and influenced by the work of literary persona JT LeRoy, this song was released as a single from the band’s third studio album, Beautiful Garbage. Manson was very influenced by Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, novels by Laura Albert under the pen name JT Leroy. The books delve into the dark history and stories of a young boy whose mother is a prostitute, among other tales. Despite its serious source material, “Cherry Lips” is surprisingly upbeat and infectious in its danceable energy.
Empty” was released as the first single from the band’s sixth studio album, Strange Little Birds. The song peaked at number 39 on the US Billboard Alternative chart. The video is a dizzying whirl of lights and colors with the camera taking turns swirling mostly around Manson and occasionally the rest of the band. It’s a refreshing and energetic track that hearkens back to their earlier work from the Garbage days.
A song ahead of its time according to some in modern society, the song explores the two sides of gender and self-expression at the time. The video is a fascinating visual of color and dichotomous expressions of identity. Manson’s singing of “free your mind and your androgyny,” for some was just a foretelling of the liberation of the trans community and the expressive of the liberal ideology of the band.
6. "#1 Crush"
Originally intended as a B-side to their single “Vow” from their debut album, “#1 Crush” was remixed and released as a promotional single for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The song reached No.1 on the US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks. In 2007 it was remastered and featured on the band’s greatest hits album, Absolute Garbage.
5. "Sex Is Not The Enemy"
Written as a sort of manifesto on sexual politics under the Bush administration, this song was created on the heels of the media outcry regarding Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.” Manson found it odd that there was so much focus on this one incident despite the harsh realities of the war in Iraq and the “clamping down" of the Bush administration "on reproductive rights and civil liberties.” From her confusion and outrage was born this song about sexual freedom and personal liberation.
4. "Stupid Girl"
Featuring a prominent and engaging bass line and drum sample, this track has a groove that is hard to ignore. The song was released in 1996 as the fourth international single from the band. It peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. It went on to become the band’s most popular single in the US and UK, infecting the ears of countless fans and introducing them to new sides of the alt rock band.
Bringing a new perspective and self-awareness to the bleak and grim tones of the 1990s grunge and cynicism comes this track off the band’s debut album. Intended as a jab at the depressive theme of songs at the time the band’s own affinity for dark subject matter, this song delivers an unexpected quality of sound. The dancing and wailing of the guitar in the song is entrancing and hypnotic, drawing in the listener and making it a must- hear.
2. "I Think I'm Paranoid"
As the second single off Version 2.0, this track was released in July of 1998 to follow up on the popularity of “Push It.” Manson’s dreamy vocals drift through the heart of the track and provide a softness in contrast to the severity of the chorus. The song saw significant success in Europe, reaching the top ten of the UK’s Singles chart.
1. "Push It"
One of the most recognizable songs in Garbage’s catalog, “Push It” was the lead single off their sophomore album, Version 2.0. It’s unusual music video and eerie use of whispered vocals and electronic synths make it one of the band’s more interesting tracks. The song was nominated for several MTV, MVPA, and other music video awards. The video premiered in the US in 1998 and was an MTV exclusive for a month upon its arrival before being available worldwide.