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Verse Chorus Verse: Garbage – “Supervixen”

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Yesterday, "Supervixen" got trapped in my head and got under my skin with its refrain of "bow down to me."

Believe it or not, I sort of remember listening to this song for the first time. I liked what I was hearing of "Supervixen" but was in a hurry to hear "Only Happy When it Rains." Now before you start mocking me – if you're not already – I liked that song when it was being played late night on MTV and VH-1, not when it became a breakthrough single. I'd heard the song a few times and a buddy and I went on a trip to buy some new music. He bought Garbage first. I wanted to get it and whatever else I got that day but only had enough money for one. We listened to his purchase in the car and I became pretty disillusioned with what I'd chosen. Within days, I had my own copy.

Anyway, "Supervixen" never got a serious amount of attention from me because I wanted to hear the song I already knew. Even when I got serious about listening to the entire record, it was always a song I liked, never a song I loved. Until now.

It employs the soft/loud dynamic similar to what Nirvana did on Nevermind, an album produced by Garbage drummer Butch Vig. Nirvana would pair soft verses with Kurt Cobain's roaring choruses. Shirley Manson can adjust her voice, but she didn't have a roar like Cobain so Garbage's soft/loud dynamic is created musically.

I'll avoid the temptation to heap hyperbole on the song proclaiming it the ideal introduction to the band, but many elements found in Garbage's best songs can be found in "Supervixen." Distorted guitars, electronic noises, live drumming and loops erupt into a huge wall before dropping out for the first verse. The big, ragged sounds ebb and flow, with Manson's vocals mixed low, creating an immaculate mess of pristine and savage sounds.

"Supervixen" is neither their best song nor their best known, but it's the kind of song that great bands and great albums have. When the great debut albums of the '90s are listed, Garbage has to be near the top.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://marksaleski.com MarkSaleski

    i’ve always loved the tension built up by the stop ‘n start guitar bits.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Absolutely, Mark. Another aspect that makes this song work so well.

  • Mat

    This is a favourite amongst us huge G fans, if you haven’t heard their b-sides you absolutely MUST. Subhuman, Trip My Wire, 13x Forever, Deadwood, and of course #1 Crush are just some of garbage’s very best songs, and they are all b-sides!!

  • Josh Hathaway

    Mat, I’ve been able to collect many of the singles over the years and those great corresponding b-sides. “Sleep” was another favorite of mine from that era. Butch Vig has often promised a b-sides collection. Maybe one day we’ll get that or a box set or something with all of them.

  • Ryan

    Great article on a oft unlistened to gem of a song. Garbage remains one of my favorite bands of all time. As far as the soft/loud dynamic of “supervixen”, if you take a quick listen to the open tracks of thier other 3 albums (Temptaion Waits, Shut Your Mouth, and Bad Boyfriend) this is something they used often. All these songs suck me immediatley into their style if music, and it isn’t often that I’m unable to listen through the whole albumn after hearing these opening tracks! Again, great post!