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Garbage’s reissue of Version 2.0 is a reminder of exactly when Shirley Manson found her confidence

"Version 2.0"

Release date: 22 June 2018
Garbage 1
12 June 2018, 22:53 Written by Ben Lynch
Apparently, it took two attempts for Garbage’s iconic lead singer, Shirley Manson, to be accepted into the band.

The first was at an audition for the role of Garbage’s lead singer while Manson was still in Anglefish. The audition didn’t go well, though Manson got another chance after Anglefish’s disbandment when she got back in contact with the rest of the band in 1994. Their first release, the self-titled record from 1995, went on to become a critical and commercial success. Lauded for its embracing of the new digital opportunities of the day, it went on to become a classic from the ‘90s, and continues to resonate with modern audiences. Just as important as its success in the public domain, however, was something that it gifted internally; namely, Shirley Manson her confidence.

Version 2.0, released in 1998, was the sonic embodiment of that new-found belief. In interviews from the time Manson discusses how she had become increasingly self-assured following the success of the first record. No longer fronting a super-band of rock producers, a position which to be fair she refuted despite the fact it was seemingly constantly suggested of her, she had grown to be a much greater musician and lead singer than that early audition suggested.

Manson quickly made a name for herself as an iconic provocateur in rock, a position aided no end by the lyrical content of Version 2.0. From the opener "Temptation Waits’’ ("I'll tell you somethin', I am a demon/Some say my biggest weakness’’) to the raunchy "Sleep Together’’ (‘’If we sleep together/Will I like you better/If we come together/Prove it now or never’’), Manson is anything but discrete. She stares the camera in the face and discloses her desires and intentions, never daring to look away and challenging her listeners to do the same. It’s a brazen approach that doesn’t always work ("Happy hours, golden showers/On a cruise to freak you out’’ on "When I Grow Up’’ is one to forget), though when it does it adds real-life intrigue to the digital influences, resulting in what is often considered to be the quintessential Garbage sound.

This new confidence in Manson’s lyrics and approach however is balanced against, even at times emphasised by, an ongoing vulnerability and volatility. An acoustic rendition of "Medication’’, one of the b-sides included here on the reissue, is the clearest example of the softer side to Manson, though elsewhere on tracks such as "I Think I’m Paranoid’’ and ‘’The Trick Is To Keep Breathing’’ her instability is obvious. Again, however, she takes on these topics direct, never scared of facing her demons and in the process developing her songwriting further.

The additional b-sides are mixed between those heavily influenced by the digital influences of the time and those that are more stripped back, such as the aforementioned "Medication’’ and the Velvet Underground-esque "Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’’. The record proper however very much embraces the new sounds available to the band. At times comparable with another album from the same year that adorned tales of love in dark electronica, Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, Version 2.0 is a step forward from their debut into the increasingly digital world.

The trio of drummer and co-producer Butch Vig, Duke Eriksen on guitar and keyboards and guitarist Steve Mark also worked to successfully produce a futuristic and eccentric backing for Manson. The excellent "Hammering In My Head" is a prime example, the most perfect expression here of Garbage’s ability to marry the best of pop and rock with a nod towards the next phase of popular music.

The intention behind Version 2.0 has been described by Vig as to "take everything we learned from our debut album and filter it through the new digital technology we were grappling with’’. The development of their sound perhaps is what is most clearly alluded to by the record’s title. The development of Manson as well, however, and the new sense of confidence she approaches Version 2.0 with is undoubtedly another. An updated version that, for all of her faults, resulted in a master provocateur and an icon for many who continues to resonate, twenty years down the line.

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