Five Garbage Songs That Should Be Gay Anthems

Written by | Entertainment, Miscellaneous, Music

Garbage has announced a 20 Years Queer Tour this fall, commemorating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album.

In celebration, we’re re-running our list of Garbage tracks that have stood out as alt-gay anthems, which we published in April 2013 after a badass moment of Shirley Manson solidarity. Only dates in London and Paris have been announced so far; hopefully some U.S. shows are coming. Visit their site for news and tickets.

By Matt Gurry

This week, Shirley Manson pulled two superfans on stage during a Garbage concert in Detroit. Before the show, Scott contacted Manson about how his boyfriend Domenick had attended a benefit for a friend of the band’s who was ill. After Scott and Domenick’s time on stage with Manson, they had become fiancés. It was awesome.

The band then performed “Vow” from their debut album. It’s a driving, hardcore song, the “vow” being to destroy your lover’s world. I might have found something a little more lyrically appropriate to say “congratulations on your engagement.” Yet—and here I address you directly, Shirley Manson—if Garbage ever wants to dedicate any song to me for any occasion, I will happily accept it.

The thing is, the Garbage bin is full of songs which make great gay anthems for us in the alt crowd, a little tired of Top-10 lists with the usual “I Am What I Am” and “True Colors.” Some favorites:

Listen to it once, you hear catchy bubblegum pop. But wait! On second listen, did Manson sing about a boy looking like a girl? She did, and she goes on to say he makes the whole world want to dance. Those who appreciate the Scissor Sisters’ subversion of, say, “Take Your Mama,” will love this hummable ode to a gender expression.

It’s off their most recent album, Not Your Kind of People. We in the LGBT community who still remember school-aged isolation with pangs of hurt are glad to have a ballad to remind us we’re not alone, and that what makes us different makes us beautiful. When you’re a fan, it’s happy relief when a band releases one of the best songs of its career on a later album. This is that song.

The title song from the band’s fourth album, this is classic Garbage angst: At best, the blood is metaphoric hurt, but I suspect it might be the literal product of cutters. Still, the beauty comes in their solidarity with those in pain, including Chris, who’s “Painted like a brand new Christmas toy / Trying to figure out if he’s a girl or he’s a boy.”

The chorus is straightforward, mentioning “boys in the girls’ room” and “girls in the boys’ room.” Then in the verses, Shirley Manson loudly commands us, who have once been called freaks, to let our freak flags fly. She tells us to “take what you need to turn you on” and affirms those of us who do are “like treasures, they twinkle in the sun.”

After seeing rallyers outside the Supreme Court with their signs explaining what love is, it’s hard to believe we’re still arguing over what God calls love. Hearing this song in Obama’s post-“evolution” era, the lyrics still hold up; hearing Manson ask in 2005, “But then there’s God and doesn’t God love everyone?” or proclaim, “I won’t feel dirty and buy into their misery,” it felt pretty damn good knowing she had our backs.

So there you have it: five Garbage songs we could easily make Pride jams—without even mentioning “Queer”! And there are more. So tell us, what alt-rock songs should we admit to the Pride canon next to the warhorse songs?

Last modified: June 22, 2018