One year ago at this time, I rekindled a love affair with a band that is my favorite from the 1990s.
I don't know how it all got started again but in August of 2017 I found myself lost in Garbage, a band that drew my ear from the first moment I heard Shirley growl "I'm only happy when it raaiins." I had lost track of them somewhere in 2005 (I do remember vaguely hearing their hit "Why Do You Love Me") and was surprised to learn that they had reformed, had released two other albums since and had continued to tour.
From there I took the sonic plunge into everything Shirley, Butch, Duke and Stephen had made since the turn of the century. It was remarkable stuff. I now own just about everything off of "Not Your Kind of People," released off their own label in 2012, and some of the music from "Strange Little Birds," released in 2016 and not as friendly to my ear.
But Garbage made their name during the heyday of alternative music, in the mid-to-late 1990s. Twenty years ago this year, they released "Version 2.0" -- an album title meant to poke fun at the fact all four of them could be caught staring at computer screens at any moment (how little they knew then). I bought that CD immediately (as I had done for their debut album) and let the distorted guitars, electronic beats and Shirley Manson's languid snarl wash over me.
I've always thought that male bands fronted by a female singer is the best combination, from Blondie to Missing Persons to Metric. It just works.
Twenty years ago this month I was listening to one of my favorite songs of that year -- "I Think I'm Paranoid" -- as it played on my TV screen (yeah, MTV was still doing the video thing then).
So let's enjoy the melodic, industrial romp that is Version 2.0, Match the Song Title style, in which I try to match a card with the title of each track.
And one more thing: there is a reason I'm focusing on this album other than a couple of anniversaries. Answer at the end of the post.
Here is the song list.
Let the beats go harder.
Match the Song Title: "Version 2.0, Garbage"
Track 1: Temptation Waits
There is no card temptation I regret answering more than Topps Chrome. It is most definitely a wolf that likes to wear sheep's clothing. I gave in to the temptation yesterday, and although I was rewarded with my fair share of Dodgers, I learned the lesson of regret when I opened the pink parallels.
Always with this guy. Such a useless card every time. Hey, me: don't ever buy this stuff again.
Track 2: I Think I'm Paranoid
The most paranoia I have with this blog is that I am going to write a post that I haven't written before -- and that I will not know that I've written about it already. This actually happened just recently (so it's not paranoia!). It was the post I made about coach cards in 1982 Donruss. I had already written that post five years ago. I got so upset when I discovered this that I promptly deleted the old post. The more recent post was better anyway. So there.
Track 3: When I Grow Up
"When I grow up, I'll be stable ..."
That's the thought. But I am as grown up as you can get, yet I still like stickers, I like cartoons on my cards, I like colorful designs and minis. Hell, I still like baseball cards.
Track 4: Medication
Shirley Manson, who is from Scotland, endured a lonely existence during the creation of Version 2.0. She spent long hours in the studio, then went home alone in what was still basically a foreign land. After a scary encounter with the medical system in the U.S., she wrote "Medication".
I picked this card because I was watching the Mets game last night and Ed Kranepool was a guest in the broadcast booth. I thought he was just showing up to chat but the appearance turned into a commercial for Kranepool and his need for a kidney for a transplant operation. I don't blame anyone on an organ waiting list for doing what it takes, but that might have been the saddest half-inning of baseball I've watched all year.
Track 5: Special
A sleeper hit for Garbage, which is staggering when you hear the song (and see the video). The line "I thought we were special ..." makes my mind go to players like Piazza and Griffey Jr. and many others who stay with a team long enough and perform well enough that fans are convinced they'll be there forever ... and then they end up with other teams.
Track 6: Hammering in My Head
Shirley has never been more sexy or sultry than on this song. So how do I steer this toward baseball?
Go with me:
Hank Aaron is The Hammer. Al Downing gave up The Hammer's record 715th home run. Downing probably had the "Hammer" in his head for a little while afterward.
Track 7: Push It
If you watch interviews with Garbage's members, you'll find out how proud they still are of the video for "Push It." It certainly gets your attention, but it's about as creepy of a pop video that I've ever seen. I still can't watch it at 2 in the morning.
Anyway, Darvish is here because of the great crescendo in that song -- "this is the noise that keeps me awake". What would have happened if Yu Darvish hadn't tipped his pitches in Game 7? What would have happened if Darvish figured out he was tipping his pitches? What would have happened if someone on the Dodgers knew he was tipping his pitches and told him? What would have happened if we FIGURED ALL THIS OUT BEFORE GAME 7????????
The noise that still keeps me awake.
Track 8: The Trick Is To Keep Breathing
Most of the songs on this album, all written by Shirley, are introspective. This one is not. It's about a friend of hers in a bad relationship. There are many parallels though for sports. When Corey Seager made the final out in Game 7 of the World Series, the Dodgers had to get up and try again in 2018. The trick is to keep breathing.
Track 9: Dumb
It is not PC to label people who are unable to speak as "dumb" anymore. So, I'm sorry. But William Hoy was known as Dummy for the good part of a century because he could not speak. That's where the mind went.
Track 10: Sleep Together
This title makes me think of those "strange bedfellows" cards created by O-Pee-Chee. This one is particularly disturbing. I don't like that it's in my Dodgers binder. I don't like it one bit.
Track 11: Wicked Ways
A little over 10 years ago, Topps thought it would be a good idea to make a card for every home run hit by a player who is known for hitting a lot of home runs. That way they could sucker some poor saps into collecting essentially the same card 550 times. This seemed particularly evil to me. I'm glad those are days are over, although card companies are still doing some wicked stuff.
Track 12: You Look So Fine
Here is the point of the post.
Around the time that my infatuation with Garbage and Shirley began again, I started thinking about how I needed some mementos from the band. But collecting rock memorabilia is very expensive and I quickly readjusted my dream to maybe getting a card of them.
My mind turned toward Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown. He could do something like that and had for me before. So that was in the back of my head for months and months.
Then I wrote those posts about the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards and Gavin fell into my web. He volunteered to do a custom card for any singer or band anyone wanted. That was my cue. And he sent me the above card, which contains just about my favorite image of Manson performing.
You can see that by the positioning of the Super Stars logo in the bottom right that it's a riff on the U.K. version of the set.
The back is further proof, as the U.K. backs featured plain, white backgrounds while the U.S. backs had yellow-spotted backgrounds.
This is probably in the top 3 of favorite custom cards that I own if not No. 1. Garbage is in the lucky 10 bands of my life that have made the greatest impact. That's not easy to do for someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.
Shirley Manson started her music career as a keyboard player and backup singer in "Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie," a Scottish rock group. She's said she never had any aspirations to be a lead singer or rock star then. Through a series of events, Manson found herself head of a short-lived group called "Angelfish" and then fronting one of '90s alternative rock's most notable bands. But she's no diva. She's said she's odd-looking, that her sexiness is a trick of makeup and camera work.
I don't agree, but as someone with more Scot blood than anything else, I understand her thinking, her self-loathing, her bluntness and her saying whatever is on her mind.
If you ask me, she looks so fine. And so does this card.
All right, that's where the needle comes off the record.
Garbage sometimes gets panned for being a slick, computer-driven band. "Cyberpop," they called it then. But they showed on "Bleed Like Me," (the 2005 album that led to their breakup), that they can flat-out rock, too. Their Version 2.0 album contains tributes to the Beach Boys, the Pretenders and others. (And when Shirley combines "You Look So Fine" with Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" in concerts, it is awesome).
And they still like rocking 23 years later so something's gone right.