Teenage angst all grown up
Garbage - Live At The Troxy, London

Remember when albums were treats you saved up for, bought in actual shops and then listened to until you knew every last word? Well, it was back in those halcyon days of the mid-‘90s that Garbage were writing the soundtracks to our angst and documenting our perversions. Tonight’s crowd, ecstatically shouting the words to every song and air-punching every beat, are clearly right there from the beginning.

With their pioneering blend of cleverly produced, electro pop-rock, Garbage were always ahead of their time. Nevertheless, it’s still astonishing how current the material sounds today – even ‘Supervixen’ sounds like some intriguing new oddity heard on 6Music last week. Shirley Manson, herself seemingly unaffected by the passage of time, is a postmodern bombshell. In red and black hot pants and vest, and with her trademark fiery hair waved 1940s style, she’s like a David Lynch pin-up – highly sexual and yet somehow once removed from reality.

It could be the rosy specs of nostalgia, but the songs sound even better than they did the first time round (or, as one punter remarked, “You just understand them now.”) There are some interesting added quirks - Manson draws out the rap potential on ‘Shut Your Mouth’ while ‘Crush’ is ironically prefaced by the lyrics to Madonna’s ‘Erotica’ (“Erotic, erotic, put your hands…”). ‘Queer’ just sounds as gloriously dirty and deranged as it did back in 1995 when our confused parents couldn’t work out if queer meant gay or strange these days.

Amongst the ‘90s classics, new singles ‘Blood for Poppies’ and ‘Battle in Me’ stand up well. The electronica has been updated but otherwise it’s pure Garbage. ‘Blood For Poppies’ chucks a huge guitar riff over a reggae beat before launching into a perfect pop chorus, while on the rock-heavy ‘Battle For Me’ Manson snarls like a tiger delivering a love song. With new album ‘Not Your Kind of People’ released on the 14th May, there was a chance the band might have eschewed classics in favour of new material. Praise be this is not the case, and ‘Push It’, ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘Paranoid’ are all present and correct, not to mention Bond theme tune ‘The World is Not Enough’, which Manson delivers in a haze of wind-blown sexiness.

Always a spell-binding, uncompromising performer, the last seven years may not have etched themselves on Manson’s face but have, if anything, enhanced her presence as a front woman. She’s even more magnetic and self-possessed, and tonight’s show establishes her as one of the greats, along with Patti Smith, Deborah Harry and Karen O. The other fascinating thing about Garbage was how well their unlikely combo worked. Now there’s a real feeling of love and affection between the geeky, dignified super-producers and their girl-vixen, as in the best, unlikely familial configurations. There’s a collective “Awww” when they share a dram of whiskey, courtesy of Manson’s dad, and the legendary Butch Vig emerges from behind his kit to give Shirls a cuddle. It’s a truly wonderful reunion.

Words by Theresa Heath
Photo by Emli Bendixen

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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