Panels & Playlists: Garbage Talk With Ashley Burgy
Panels & Playlists is where the world of comic books and music collide! I have a brief chat with comic creators share what music is on their playlists and give a little insight into their favorite songs.
This week's guest is friend of the show Ashley Burgy. When we're not geeking out over hockey, we're often seen riffing (no pun intended) on the music we love. To coincide with the release of Strange Little Birds, the latest album from alternative rock band Garbage, we decided to take a brief trip back in time to 1998 and discuss some of our favorite tracks from the band's sophomore effort, Version 2.0. Note: We were originally supposed to pick only 5 tracks, but we had to make an exception because, well, Garbage.
Adrian: Before we even get started, I just have to say how happy I am to be covering this album. I've loved Garbage ever since I saw the video for "Stupid Girl" when I was 10, but when Version 2.0 came out it was like my whole world opened up. I was obsessed with it!
Ashley: I’ve been a long-time worshipper of Shirley and Co. I was introduced to them through an uncle of mine who I was very close with as a kid. He was a musician and would often give me mixtapes of alt and indie classic songs and we’d discuss them and jam out at length. I asked him at one point about the lack of women in these bands (being the ten year old feminist I was, apparently) and our next visit he handed me three female-fronted albums, Version 2.0 being one of them. It was definitely the most well-worn of the three and sparked a lifelong obsession with Garbage.
Adrian: Funny you should use the word “obsession.” Through all 12 tracks, Shirley’s got her boot down on everybody’s backs and making sure she has their complete attention. She’s equal parts vulnerable but tough as nails. I can’t get enough of this! [Laughs]
Ashley: You could boil this album (and the band itself really) down to this idea of juxtaposition and balance. Tough yet vulnerable lyrics, mechanical yet organic musically, dark but uplifting and catchy as hell. Even in the sort of visual of the band itself: you have this beautiful, younger woman with these tougher-looking older guys, and you assume from the visual that she’s nothing but a calculated marketing ideal specifically chosen to sell posters and fantasy as well as albums. Until you actually listen to what she has to say and see the band interact--you can see the level of respect and affection the four of them have for one another, and it becomes instantly apparent that Shirley isn’t your typical pretty airhead. She’s intelligent, tough, and not afraid to go against the stereotypical ideas of what a woman should be.
She has this...aggression to her, which...I don’t mean aggression in a "Courtney-Love-punching-people-in-the-face" sort of way, but in a non-passivity sort of way. She’s soft spoken, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel passionately or will put up with some bullshit. Which I, as someone who is herself a fairly quiet person, look up to immensely. (...This turned into a mildly long-winded “I agree with your sentiment, Adrian!” [Laughs])
Adrian: I was too busy laughing about Courtney Love punching people in the face.
1. “Temptation Waits”
Adrian: For a very long time I thought that this was a weak opening track. It took a very long time for me to realize that lyrically this is one of my favorite songs on the album. Earlier you mentioned Shirley’s aggression, which is perfect because she’s got it in spades here, especially in the opening lines:
I’ll tell you something
I am a wolf, but
I like to wear sheep’s clothing
This is peak Garbage: the music is vibrant, but almost...sinister? You’re almost afraid to keep listening!
Ashley: So, my fangirl is showing, but this song will always be synonymous with Buffy the Vampire Slayer for me. This song is on the show’s first tie-in album, and always felt like this perfect lyrical depiction of the Buffy/Angel relationship arc: this dark and creepy undeniable attraction which spirals into full-blown debilitating obsession. It gives me that image of a first love gone horribly wrong, which….yeah, kinda sums up their relationship. That sentiment comes through musically as well--that sexy-yet-sinister build up into techno-twinged rock that Garbage does so well. I think this is a really great opening track. It gives you a pretty good idea of the type of musical, lyrical, and emotional range you can expect going forward in the album.
2. "I Think I'm Paranoid"
Adrian: This is the perfect example of what I refer to is as the “volleyball approach.” What the band does so perfectly is set up the ball, so to speak, and Shirley spikes it every time. The guitars on the chorus are meaty as hell. Great, now I want a steak. [Laughs]. Also, this song is one of the prime examples of Shirley paying homage to her influences by pulling lyrics (albeit modified) from The American Breed’s classic “Bend Me, Shape Me.”
Ashley: The video for this song...man. I love this song, but I can’t think of it without thinking of the video. I am probably in the minority, but it’s my favorite of theirs. It’s funny that you point out the lyrical homage; the video concept is based on the cover of With The Beatles, and I remember reading that in an interview, as a huge Beatles fan, and going back to watch the video. That visual homage makes that video for me. Each of the band members look striking in black and white, and I love the interlude, where the obvious reference to the photograph is clear. I know that a Beatles reference, visual, music or otherwise, isn’t exactly uncommon, but this is one that makes my heart happy.
3. "When I Grow Up"
Adrian: Is there such a thing as a “Catchy As Fuck” award in the music industry? If not, there needs to be so I can retroactively nominate this song. Chronologically speaking, “Cherry Lips” and “Why Do You Love Me?” didn’t exist yet, so this was the Garbage song that made me grin like an idiot. On an unrelated note, it was this very song that made me cognizant of the concept of golden showers. That’s something that was always peculiar to me because despite it’s radio-ready catchiness it’s a pretty screwed up song lyrically and even weirder because it’s attached to a movie in which Adam Sandler takes care of a small child... [Shudders]
Ashley: To be fair, aren’t there a multitude of urination jokes in that movie?
Adrian: It’s an Adam Sandler flick, so taking the law of averages into account there’s gotta be about 40 of them, easily.
Ashley: This song gives me warm and fuzzies, because I was a bridesmaid in a wedding for one of my closest friends from high school and the wedding party walked down the aisle to this song, which, being me, I loved, but I’m sure left a lot of people confused. I asked her about it at one point, and she laughed at me and told me that “growing up is relative. People think getting married makes you stable and an ‘adult’, but [she and her husband] aren’t grown-ups, they’re just kids who got old. Why not embrace it?”
I loved that she used her own wedding to point out how ridiculous the idea of adulthood and settling down is. Because I don’t think any of us really, truly, 100% feels like we have our shit together all the time. There’s always going to be some new situation in which you’re mentally flailing and desperately trying to figure out which fork on the left you’re supposed to be using.
...And despite giving a nod to the “Fuck it, just act like a child” M.O. of Adam Sandler’s career, I still feel really dirty about this song being forever attached to some dogshit movie he made. Ugh.
Adrian: I wanted to bring up this amusing anecdote about a childhood crush I associated with this song in 8th grade, but forget all of that. WAS THIS NOT THE GREATEST MUSIC VIDEO EVER? Seriously, I watched an unnecessary amount of MTV in hopes of catching a glimpse of this video. The cool, sci-fi style, the aerial dogfights and Manson’s outfit.. Oh, and the nod to Chrissie Hynde at the end of the song. Why is Shirley so wonderful at everything she does?
Ashley: First of all, if you know someone who doesn’t like this song, divorce them immediately. You don’t need that kind of negativity and wrongness in your life.
...Which is basically this song. If you haven’t wailed along with Shirley and Co. with a particularly awful friend or ex in mind, trust me, you did not mourn the end of that relationship properly. One thing I love about Shirley’s lyrics in general, but this song in particular, is how they manage to be universal and yet just specific enough to where you can relate them to specific people and situations. Where you can hear this song and instantly be transported to a specific time in which you were feeling or experiencing something real. I enjoy plenty of bands, but few do I connect with on that level, I guess. Like a time machine that you’re still making memories with.
Also, the fact that some Everlast/Santana collaboration beat this out for a Grammy is just one of the multitude of examples why the Grammys are wrong and fill me with rage. But I digress. Moving on…
5. "Hammering In My Head"
Adrian: As if I there’s anybody left that isn’t aware: I am a huge fan of the James Bond franchise. The late 90's saw that fandom hit critical mass. I was a member of not one, but two James Bond RPG chat rooms on AOL and I wrote a lot of fan fiction. This song served as the basis for one such story which dealt with Bond’s entanglement with a beautiful assassin. Think Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the Winter Soldier is female. And there was a lot more violence and nudity. Don’t judge me.
Ashley: That is the cutest fucking thing I have ever heard. [Laughs] Anyway, this song for the longest time was that song between “Special” and [SPOILER]. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t really love it, it was just there as a placeholder between two of my favorite songs from this album. But in listening to this album again as a whole...damn, this song is badass. That beat is relentless and catchy, that guitar riff is blaring, the drums are badass….yeah. There’s this level of intensity that isn’t there with a lot of the other album. I just imagine the band collapsing in a tired heap after performing this.
I could definitely imagine the Bond soundtrack people hearing this song in particular and deciding to have them record their next theme. Speaking of songs that are badass…”The World Is Not Enough” is one of my favorite Bond themes, for one of my *least* favorite Bond movies...but I digress. I want to kick all kinds of ass to this song. End of story.
6. "Push It"
Adrian: Holy shit. There’s so much to say about this song and I’m not even sure if I’m comfortable enough to recollect any of it. I barely got away with telling that 007 chat room story! At the risk of embarrassing myself any further, I’ll just say that this was one of those songs that a 13-year-old Adrian probably should have avoided like the plague. [Laughs]
Ashley: I will never understand why this wasn’t the Garbage track that ended up on Gran Turismo. Did I mention “I Think I’m Paranoid” was on GT2? And that it always seemed to be the song happening just when I was stuck on a stage or losing, so even though I love it, I have this urge to throw a PS1 controller through a dinosaur-age TV every time I hear it? No? Well, pretend I did.
When this song comes on in my car, I know full well my tiny four-cylinder engine will suffer for the next four minutes and change. That build up to the chorus is perfection, and when the music kicks back in and the aggressive vocals and music kick back in, I just wanna drive fast and fuck shit up. [Laughs] Most of the time though, I’m forced to swear at the non-moving traffic. It’s not fair that imagination and real life don’t match up more often. [Laughs]