Rarely does a band have the balls to name an album after the contents inside accurately. Limp Bizkit did it with Results May Vary, likely a play on what a Limp album would be like without Wes Borland (awful). The Yes Album was a perfect summary of what that band was about. And Garbage basically rewrites their debut album but tweaks it a bit for Version 2.0.
Befitting the title, most of the songs use more computer-enhanced production and more glossy production than the title, which at least felt like an alternative album and fit in perfectly in 1995. This one falls prey to the sophomore slump by making a simple mistake -- it does not build on the promise of the debut, which to this day is still Garbage's best work.
The sound, the lyrics and the feel is all 90's, and certainly Shirley Manson's voice set against the pulsating techno-pop is alluring. She has a voice perfectly suited for alternative music and lends a bit of charm to these rather bland songs, even if the music occasionally dips into rather obvious teenage cliches ("When I grow up / I'll be stable / When I grow up / I'll turn the tables /Trying hard to fit among you," for example, or "Nobody gives a damn about me / Or anybody else").
Credit goes to Butch Vig and the rest of the production team for dressing up this record with tons of echo and sweeping, languid arrangements that make the music just float by. Unfortunately, many of the songs are repetitive and lack substance, and often end up sounding similar to both each other and their peers on Garbage. "Special" starts off with a promising guitar riff but then degenerates into a standard Garbage song, which is true of most of the disc -- a promise that rarely delivers.
When the band gets a little edgy, the music improves greatly. "Hammering In My Head" offers a rather annoyed Manson singing/speaking her words over a sped-up techno-lite beat. "Push It" is the best song here, driven by some great bass work and ethereal backup vocals that bridge the languid verses and the harsher chorus -- at least, until the middle, where Manson breaks into a Madonna-like whisper/rap over escalating electronic drums. That two-song lineup is the best on the album.
"Wicked Ways" is Manson at her pouty Deborah Harry best, but the band has a bit more grit than Blondie, even though they lack the pop hooks to make a truly memorable song. The closing "You Look So Fine" is a moody closing jam that shows off what Manson does best, while the band keeps a steady erotic beat behind her - this could be one of the best songs to get laid to that nobody ever heard.
But Version 2.0 ultimately falls by the wayside in its attempt to value production over songwriting, leaving a lingering thought that the band intends to make the same record over and over. Whether this one is better than the debut is arguable, since both have their certain charm, but much like its original release, the second version of Garbage is only halfway successful.