Unveiling the new model of a machine that made its debut three years prior, alternative rock outfit Garbage polished the raw grind of their hazy first album with the sparkling digital sheen of 1998 sophomore effort Version 2.0. Emerging from the eerie trip-hop and bleak grunge of the critically acclaimed, multi-platinum Garbage, the quartet expanded their vision, going into overdrive with a futuristic sound that blended their inspirations both classic (the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the Pretenders) and contemporary (Björk, Portishead, and the Prodigy). While Garbage retained the sleaze and effortless cool of their debut -- hinted on early tracks "As Heaven Is Wide" and "A Stroke of Luck" -- they infused Version 2.0 with deeper electronic layering, improved hooks, and an intimate lyrical focus courtesy of iconic vocalist Shirley Manson, who seized her place as the face and voice of the band with authority and confidence. On the propulsive "When I Grow Up" and the bittersweet "Special," Garbage took cues from '60s girl groups with "sha-la-la"s and stacked vocal harmonies, grounding them with a delivery inspired by Chrissie Hynde. Elsewhere, the hard techno edges of Curve and Björk cut through the frustrated "Dumb" and the lusty "Sleep Together," while Depeche Mode's Wild West years received tribute on the stomping "Wicked Ways." Beyond the blistering hit singles "I Think I'm Paranoid" and "Push It," Version 2.0 is also home to Garbage's most tender and heartbreaking moments, from the pensive "Medication" to the trip-hop-indebted "The Trick Is to Keep Breathing" and "You Look So Fine." Balanced and taut, Version 2.0 is a greatest-hits collection packaged as a regular album, not only a peak in Garbage's catalog, but one of the definitive releases of the late '90s.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung