"Greatest Hits" albums are generally pretty easy to review because there are only two questions that count: "what's here" and "what's missing?" A greatest hits compilation succeeds or fails on that ratio alone. So, how does Absolute Garbage score?
This is the band's first hits package, which is worth a couple points because there are some artists out there with more compilations than actual albums. It's (mostly) chronologically ordered, depending on how technical you want to get. The new song, "Tell Me Where it Hurts" is placed in the 17th slot while a remix of "It's All Over But The Crying" is placed 18th. "Crying" originally appeared on Bleed Like Me, which should put it in front of the new track. Because it is a remix, they can get away with the switcheroo.
The set has most of their singles, both of their major soundtrack contributions, and that new song. Weighing in at 18 tracks, all digitally remastered, this is a bit too long. Garbage had hits, but not that many. The deluxe edition is reasonably priced and comes with a bonus disc of remixes. Some people will probably find those interesting, I didn't. All in all, it's a good value package.
The chronological order works well and the album plays well, but Garbage is cursed by their early success. The bulk of their strongest material comes from their first two records. They recorded good songs later, but not all were chosen as singles. Absolute emphasizes the singles, meaning some of the songs representing Beautiful Garbage and Bleed Like Me weren't the best songs from either. AG paints a good, if incomplete, portrait of the band's career because nearly every song on the set is good and some are great.
As is often the case with greatest hits packages, this is of limited interest to the band's most devoted fans. Most will have the band's four albums, many will have the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack with "#1 Crush." The two songs that might not be in every collection are the new song (obviously) and "The World is Not Enough," their James Bond soundtrack contribution. The remixes on the bonus disc were mostly all b-sides, so some diehards will already have these.
A Garbage b-sides collection remains the Holy Grail for Garbage fans. Oasis is still the Gold Standard when it comes to b-sides, but Garbage released some interesting ones. I only have a handful of the band's early import singles and there were some great songs that never made it to record. Butch Vig has discussed releasing such a set on multiple occasions, so even the band realizes how much U.S. fans want one of these. Now, while the band is on hiatus, would seem a good time to release one. Record company B.S. is probably the reason we don't have one now and won't any time soon.