June 15, 1998 12:00 PM

Garbage (Almo Sounds)

Album of the week

When Garbage’s siren-like singer, Shirley Manson, purrs “I am a wolf, but I like to wear sheep’s clothing” at the start of her quartet’s second album, she isn’t kidding. Beneath this CD’s slick, danceable surface lurks a menacing, unpredictable animal ready to pounce—as well as a reason for pop music fans of all stripes to rejoice. Here’s a band unafraid of mixing the latest sonic bleeps and blasts with references, both lyrical and otherwise, to classic guitar rock. On its 1995 debut, the result was occasionally like listening to Top-40 radio while vacuuming the living room. But not here, thanks to consistently strong songwriting and a sophisticated, multilayered sound that prevents any one whiz-bang musical element from stealing the show. At its most successful, as on “Push It,” which recycles the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” to surprising effect, the group upgrades the past without seeming nostalgic. This summer, expect the feisty, alluring Manson to be, as she sings at one point, quoting the Pretenders, rock’s “talk of the town.”

Bottom Line: Trashes the competition

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