We want to love Shirley Manson. We want Shirley Manson to love us. Because if she doesn't, she'd probably try to kill us, which would complicate our attempts to love her.
It helps when she doesn't make crappy albums.
There's a good reason you've heard and read little about Beautiful Garbage, Garbage's much-anticipated third release: It stinks. It catches our beloved three-producers-and-an-enigmatic-British-quasi-bombshell collective at an artistic crossroads, between the grungy, flashy rock of its youth and the precise, surgical electro-pop it seems enamored of lately. Put 'em together and whaddya get? Britney Spears. Run, don't walk.
It's especially disappointing given Garbage's still-enormous talent and potential. Manson's a great, mercurial rock diva, howling and hissing and slithering and making those words really mean something. And the high-concept pop clatter around her matches the ante. "Only Happy When It Rains" and "Push It" rank among the best singles those diaper-dandy days of alterna-rock produced, trumping surly testosterone with pure feminized rage and compelling us to dance (or at least slam dance) in the process.
Yeah, you can hear traces of that ability on Beautiful Garbage, mostly in the disc's slower, quieter, more maudlin set pieces (e.g., "Cup of Coffee"). But the rest is overwrought teen-pop farce. Perhaps a few beautiful failures are inevitable. No love affair is perfect, after all. Particularly those that eventually kill you.