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ALMO SOUNDS

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Garbage (Duke Erikson, Shirley Manson, Steve Marker, Butch Vig)
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
Four albums and seven Grammy® nominations later, Garbage has its first best of DVD collection - Absolute Garbage. Among the 15 Garbage music videos on DVD for the first time - including "Vow", "Only Happy When It Rains", "Stupid Girl" and "Milk" directed by Samuel Bayer and "Queer" by Stephane Sednaoui - and two previously unreleased in the US: "You Look So Fine" and "Shut Your Mouth". Also included is almost an hour of never-before-seen footage backstage and behind-the-scenes, live performances and interviews, spanning the band's entire career.

Absolute Garbage offers the best of a band that, to quote a lyric from "Queer", has been the strangest of the strange, the coolest of the cool.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English PCM Stereo
Subtitles:
None
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 60 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 7/24/2007

Bonus:
• “Thanks For the Uhh, Support” Documentary
• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Garbage: Absolute Garbage (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 7, 2007)

Some bands don’t receive the recognition they deserve, and I’d lump Garbage into that category. Oh, it’s not like they toiled in obscurity, as they scored a few hits and a moderate amount of attention over their decade or so together. However, I couldn’t help but think that they should’ve been a much bigger success, as they had so much good material and boasted such a strong lead performer via singer Shirley Manson.

As of summer 2007, Garbage look to be kaput as a working unit. They might come back, but signs don’t seem positive in that regard. We can examine their time together via Absolute Garbage, a compilation of music videos.

Absolute covers the band’s four albums as well as one special single. From 1995’s debut Garbage, we get “Vow”, “Queer”, “Only Happy When It Rains”, “Stupid Girl” and “Milk”. 1998’s Version 2.0 brings us “Push It”, “I Think I’m Paranoid”, “Special”, “When I Grow Up” and “You Look So Fine”, while 2001’s Beautiful Garbage offers “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)” and “Shut Your Mouth”. From 2005’s Bleed Like Me, we locate “Why Do You Love Me” and the title song. Finally, “The World Is Not Enough” comes from the 1999 Bond flick of that title.

I’ll run through the 16 videos and offer my reactions for them in the order they appear. I’ll give each video a number rating on the usual 1-10 scale. The package presents the videos in a clear chronological order, from first single to last.

Vow: For the band’s first video, we get a simple but stylish affair. Technically, I’d call this a basic lip-synch clip since if focuses on the band as they perform. It sticks them in a large golden-brown room populated with lots of TV monitors and some dancing, painted bald dude who reminds me of a trippy Michael Stipe.

I could live without that guy’s presence, but the rest of the video works well. Shirley shows her stage presence from second one, and the simple format seems just fine for this great song. Lose Baldie and this would be a better video, but it remains very good. 7/10.

Queer: A stark black and white piece, this one follows Shirley and the guys – though mostly Shirley – as she wanders the streets and sees a few weirdos along the way. Yeah, that makes it sound like it telegraphs the song’s title/lyrics, but it doesn’t really. It offers a creepy vibe that suits the tune, and Shirley mesmerizes as usual. 8/10.

Only Happy When It Rains: Most important thing to note: the video shows no rain. Thank God for that! (Though some falling glitter at the end comes perilously close to the predictable use of precipitation.) Instead, it uses some garish overblown colors as it mostly shows the band indoors. They lip-synch, drill a guitar, and meet some costumed weirdos outside the studio. Does it make a lick of sense? No, and it’s not as interesting as “Queer”. Nonetheless, it’s reasonably evocative. 7/10.

Stupid Girl: Yeah, this one’s a lip-synch in the studio clip dressed up in artsy clothing. Nonetheless, it’s pretty good. It focuses on stylized colors and often degrades the footage to look like old film. Shirley makes it work, though. Y’know, they could shoot her as she files her nails and I’d still give it a good rating. 8/10.

Milk: The calmest song to date gets the most sedate video. Don’t be fooled by its languid exterior, though, as it creates a powerful little punch to accompany the lyrics of painful love. The video artfully pans around to various band members with stylized colors and surprisingly effective use of blurred focus. It’s unusual and quite good. 9/10.

Push It: And now for something completely… something. Arguably the weirdest video in Garbage’s canon – or maybe anybody’s – I won’t even attempt to make sense of “Push It”. It throws all sorts of oddness at us, from bandit nuns to a guy with a lightbulb for a head to a character who looks like he escaped from a-ha’s “Take On Me” video. I may not know what it means, but it creeps the hell out of me. In this case, that’s a good thing. 9/10.

I Think I’m Paranoid: After the overstimulation of “Push It”, matters simplify for the black and white “Paranoid”. Don’t take that as a bad thing, though; as much as I like “Push It”, another clip that dense would’ve made my head explode. This one mostly sticks with basic lip-synch shots but it uses various visual techniques to hint at the lyrics’ sense of a muddled self. It’s another strong video. 8/10.

Special: Possibly the most elaborate Garbage video, this one actually tries to tell a minor story about a futuristic queen – Shirley, natch – who fights for the freedom of her people from the “evil lords of Garbania” – ie, her bandmates. Ooh, hints of band tension? Probably not, and the clip acts to give us a fun throwback to 1940s sci-fi epics. We get aerial dogfights in this entertaining video. 9/10.

When I Grow Up: After all these creative videos, it comes as a bit of a disappointment to find this pretty basic live clip. (The footage comes from a concert, but we still hear the studio rendition of the song.) It’s perfectly decent, but after so many great videos, “perfectly decent” doesn’t cut it. I also wish they’d just gone with live audio here instead of the studio rendition. The concert footage doesn’t match well with the canned track, and that makes the video look awkward. 5/10.

You Look So Fine: Simple and eerie, this one puts Shirley in an odd supernatural desert setting next to some guy who certainly appears to be dead. The majority of the clip just shows her as she croons the tune to him. That makes it sound dull, but the lush visuals combine with the words and the subtext to create a video with real punch. It’s unsettling but in a quiet, creepy way. 10/10.

The World Is Not Enough: Shirley would make a great Bond villainess and her bitch goddess persona works nicely for this clip, which otherwise would be a standard conglomeration of film shots and lip-synching. The video attempts a Bond-ian storyline, but it's Manson's heat that keeps it together. 9/10.

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go): Essentially a studio lip-synch clip, this one uses bluescreen techniques to give it some pizzazz. It makes Shirley and the guys invisible, a tactic that becomes more titillating when see-through Shirley “strips”. It’s not as good as the two that precede it here, but it’s entertaining. 7/10.

Shut Your Mouth: This one shows concert footage with some visual distortion. Despite all the various colors and techniques, it remains… a pretty ordinary concert clip. Or maybe I’m just bitter because I hate the short blonde hair Shirley sported in the Beautiful Garbage era. 4/10.

Why Do You Love Me?: I’m not quite sure what to make of this one. At its start, it looks like it’ll be a basic “female loathes herself due to society’s standards” piece, but then it changes. Shirley and the guys set up a stage and play a show. Does any of this make much sense? Not a lot, but I like it anyway. 7/10.

Bleed Like Me: The song is little more than a rewrite of Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” – albeit a self-knowing one – so I’ve never been nuts about it. However, the video works really well. It places Shirley as a hospital nurse – or is she? The visuals fit the music and lyrics to a very satisfying degree and turn this into a memorable clip. 9/10.

I didn’t say much about the music in my little review bites, so I thought I should throw out a few tune-related comments here. As I mentioned at the start, I love Garbage, and this collection reminds me why. There’s not a dud to be found, though obviously I like some tunes more than others. I can’t claim to be particularly wild about “The World Is Not Enough”, “Bleed Like Me” or “Milk”; they’re fine but not faves. “Cherry Lips” also wouldn’t be one of my choices from Beautiful Garbage.

So what are my top tunes here? Uhh, all of them? Really, I can’t pick from among this crop, as they’re great, great songs across the board. Garbage packed a lot of excellent work into their four albums, and Absolute serves as a terrific overview with nary a flaw to be seen or heard.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Garbage: Absolute Garbage appears in an aspect ratio of mostly 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few tunes use alternate ratios. “Milk”, “I Think I’m Paranoid”, “Special”, “You Look So Fine”, “Why Do You Love Me” and “Bleed Like Me” went with a 1.78:1 set-up, “When I Grow Up” and “Cherry Lips” were 1.66:1, while “The World Is Not Enough” boasted a Bond-like 2.35:1. Parts of “Push It” looked to be 1.66:1, but most of it was 1.33:1.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews of music video compilations, you’ll have seen my standard whine about how tough it is to rate their visual quality. Not only do they usually come from a wide span of years, but also they’re so stylized that it’s impossible to form an objective rating.

And yet I try! Within the usual parameters, I felt quite pleased with the visuals of Absolute. Sharpness usually looked very good. A few shots seemed slightly soft and lacked the expected definition, but I thought those were rare – not counting intentional blurry stuff like “Milk”, of course. The videos came across as pretty accurate and concise. I noticed very little in the way of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes seemed to be absent. Granted, it’s tough to judge the latter simply because of the quick cutting found in so many of these videos; the images weren’t on screen long enough to allow me to discern any edge specifics. Still, I couldn’t witness concrete evidence of them.

Except for purposefully degraded elements – hello, “Stupid Girl”! – the videos appeared to be free from flaws. Again, it became nigh unto impossible to tell the difference between intentional defects and the ones we shouldn’t see, but I found no evidence that problems occurred. Though colors varied dependent on the directorial choices, they all seemed very good given the extremes featured. Radical forms of stylization abounded but no issues related to the hues emerged. Blacks also seemed deep and tight, while the smattering of low-light shots were appropriate. I always expect the worst from music video collections, so this one came as a very pleasant surprise.

Similar praise came for the PCM Stereo audio of Absolute Garbage. Stereo imaging seemed solid across the board. Of course, those elements depended on the original tracks, but for the most part, the instrumentation and vocals appeared neatly delineated and easy to distinguish within the mix. It all spread across the front well and seemed to aptly reproduce the source material.

Audio quality also seemed fine. Vocals sounded clean and distinct, though again, the original production affected this; for instance, “Hold Me” is supposed to offer a very thin and processed tone, which it does. The various instruments sounded clear and nicely defined, and bass response came across as appropriately deep and tight. Overall, the audio of Absolute more than adequately replicated the music.

In terms of extras, we find a 69-minute documentary called Thanks For Your Uhh, Support. In this piece, we follow Garbage over their decade-or-so career. In addition to comments from all the band members, we see plenty of live snippets and behind the scenes glimpses of their lives as part of Garbage. This focuses more on the “glory years” of Garbage and Version 2.0, but it still throws out info about the later period as well.

The show comes pretty “warts and all”. Of course, it highlights the band’s successes, but it doesn’t neglect to point out the many negatives from along the way. I’d love to get more live work – we need a Garbage concert compilation! – but even without full songs, I really like this frank and involving documentary.

The set also includes an eight-page booklet. It presents some photos – mostly of Shirley, natch – and some video credits. It ain’t much, but it’s better than the nothing that comes with most DVDs.

As I watched Absolute Garbage, I felt somewhat sad. The music reminded me just how much I love the band, so it depressed me to think that they may no longer exist as a functioning unit. At least we get to experience many of their highs via this fine collection of videos. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as an interesting little documentary. This package is a must-have for established fans, and those who want an intro to Garbage should snag it too. It acts as a fine “best of” collection that can be found for less money than the CD, so it’s a bargain.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main