By Music Editor, MIKE GEE

Despite a bevy and flurry of rumours, Garbage haven't released a new album in 1997 - nor were they ever going to.

Producer, guiding light, and now drummer, Butch Vig, made that perfectly clear at the end of last year. Worn out by nearly a year and and a half on the road, it was obvious to him - and anybody around the band - that Garbage needed a break.

Sure they might get back together in the first quarter of '97 and start writing but as Vig quipped at the time, "We're not the fastest band in a studio." And that's been the case. Then again why should they be? Second album's are important steps in anybody's career - even a band as multi-platinum successful as Garbage - and the sophomore curse has struck often and with devestating effect more often than not.

So Garbage have taken their time - reclaimed some life. But the latest news confirms what most people knew all along - 1998 is looking good.

The band is close to finishing work on the second set, recorded in Vig's Madison, Wisconsin, studio. Tracks already recorded for the album include: 'Push It', 'Temptation', 'Bend Me' and 'The Trick Is To Keep Breathing'.

NME scooped everybody recently and tracked down effervescent lead singer, Shirley Manson, who confirmed, "The songs are all written and partly recorded and it's just a question of tarting them all up and finding the right sounds.

"The record I think sounds looser than the first and it's also in some respects more organic sounding and in some respects more electronic. We've used a lot of prototype compressors and pre-amps and microphones. We have an engineer working with us this time and he was encouraging us to use the latest technology. Most people who know what's going on in the advances of technology are using this stuff. We're not the first. Billy Corgan's using it on the new Smashing Pumpkins album."

The band wrote most of the album during a post-tour holiday in the San Juan islands near Vancouver in March, and it snow due for February '98 release on Mushroom.

Manson said it marked a personal landmark for her. "I think the record is a little more direct lyrically. I've had people in my life who I've been grossly intertwined with who were very bad for me as a person. And I think that some of that is on the record.

"It's been weird cos all the people who I love and care about, I hardly ever see and things in their lives have changed, and they've had all these crises that I've not necessarily been party to and not involved in; I've been a voyeur almost. Someone who's very close to me had an unbelievable experience and I felt I wasn't there for her. And she's pervaded my record. 'The Trick Is To Keep Breathing 'is probably for her. I wasn't conscious of it at the start, it came through as I was singing it."

Garbage are currently contacting remixers to work on singles from the album.