Garbage’s Shirley Manson is hooked on Blondie
The Rage + Rapture Tour, which arrives in Boston on Sunday, pairs the New Wave legends Blondie with the alt-rock titans Garbage — two bands who gave their hooky, restless rock an edge by infusing it with other influences, from early hip-hop to pummeling techno.
“It really does make sense in so many ways, but it really felt like it came from the clouds, to be honest,” says Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson. “It’s such a great opportunity for us to learn from our heroes, and to be inspired and to pay homage to a band that literally paved the way for us. Everybody [in Garbage] is a big Blondie fan. They were essentially post-punk, but they played great pop music. It was a very interesting mix of that rebellious era, coupled with some uncommonly well-crafted pop songs.”
Blondie and Garbage’s link goes even further back than Garbage’s formation in the ’90s. “We’ve known Shirley for a long time,” says Blondie guitarist and songwriter Chris Stein. “I met her years ago, with [her former band] Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie — I think they may have opened up for us way back. She inducted us into the [Rock & Roll] Hall of Fame [in 2006].” Manson called Blondie “one of the coolest, most glamorous, most stylish bands in the history of rock ’n’ roll” at that ceremony, a claim that Blondie’s varied catalog and timeless hookiness bears out.
Stein and singer Deborah Harry formed Blondie in 1974, when the two were skulking around the New York rock scene; after adding a few other musicians (including drummer Clem Burke, the only other original member remaining) they played punk haunts like
CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, and eventually broke through the mainstream with singles penned by Harry and Stein. The pair refracted pop motifs through post-punk’s punchiness; the sinewy “Rapture,” thanks to Debbie Harry’s Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash-namechecking freestyle, became the first song with a rap to top the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.
Blondie broke up in 1982 and came back in 1997 — just as bands like Garbage were carrying on their legacy of attitude-forward, hybridized rock. “We definitely have always name-dropped Blondie throughout our career as a band that we look to and were influenced by,” says Manson. “So it doesn’t surprise me that people can find a common thread between us, because they were one of our influences.”
Garbage formed in the ’90s when producer Butch Vig, who’d helped helm some of the hugest albums in alt-rock including Nirvana’s game-changing “Nevermind” and Smashing Pumpkins’ resplendent “Siamese Dream,” teamed up with his former bandmate Duke Erikson and sound engineer Steve Marker. Manson, who had been singing lead in the chugging Edinburgh band Angelfish, completed the puzzle. Garbage fused ideas from the forceful electronic music of the early ’90s with the distorted guitars that were all over the radio, and applied them to pop hooks; Manson’s sourpuss alto added just the right amount of goth edginess. Their 1995 self-titled debut spawned hits like the cascading “Only Happy When It Rains” and the swirling “Stupid Girl,” and over the latter part of the decade, they pushed into even weirder places with singles that combined glitchy electronics with sweepingly agitated pop-rock, including the anxious “I Think I’m Paranoid” and the sultry theme for the 1999 James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough.”
Both Blondie and Garbage have been steadily releasing new music in the 21st century. Last year Garbage put out “Strange Little Birds,” which added harsher textures to their coolly catchy hooks. In May Blondie released “Pollinator,” which builds on the band’s legacy of absorbing pop’s current ideas, featuring songs co-written by pop thrush Charli XCX and synthpop wizard Dev Hynes, as well as guest spots by “Bob’s Burgers” star John Roberts (on “Love Level,” a Stein-Harry composition that, Stein says, was inspired by ragged indie rockers Port O’Brien’s 2007 single “I Woke Up Today”) and fellow New York art-rock royalty Laurie Anderson. The openers for the Rage + Rapture Tour stretch both bands’ legacies into the 2010s; the scalding guitar-drum duo Deap Vally, which plays on Sunday, fuses various types of hard music into giddy, punchy rock songs.
Sunday’s show will be a celebration not only of some of the past four decades’ greatest pop songs, but of the legacy started by Harry, continued by Manson, and kept alive by Deap Vally. “Debbie Harry, of course, was the original template for modern pop,” says Manson. “There aren’t many pop stars who haven’t taken a note out of her book — she really has carved out a name for herself and is truly an icon. And I say that with great intent. You know, I feel like the word ‘icon’ is bandied around an awful lot these days, but Debbie, she really is one of the greats who we will remember for all eternity.”
Blondie and Garbage: The Rage and Rapture Tour
With Deap Vally. At Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Boston, July 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets: From $29.50, 617-728-1600, www.livenation.com