Review Summary: Surely Bush couldn't replicate the past by channeling their 90's success in 2011?
Known mainly for their foray into the grunge scene during the mid-90's, Bush was a great band in their own right. Sure, they were trying to make music/money while grunge was still somewhat relevant, and for the most part, their music was quite good. Gavin Rossdale demonstrated that he had a voice tailor made for radio rock success, and the other guys in the band complemented Rossdale quite nicely, resulting in several hit singles, some still played frequently to this day. After their last album, 2001's Golden State
, it seemed like Bush was pretty much done. Couple the low sales with their subsequent hiatus/breakup, Bush was at least destined to be a relatively important section of 90's rock talk. Low and behold, 10 years later, Bush are back with yet another album, virtually out of nowhere. Surely they couldn't replicate the past by channeling their 90's success in 2011?
The name of the game on The Sea if Memories
is a sense of being brought back to the 90’s, for at least half of the album. Ten years later, a solo album, and becoming a husband/father, Rossdale still has the voice to be a force in mainstream rock radio. The problem, this time, is that occasionally the music just takes too much of a backseat to his voice, resulting in some quite boring tracks. Not entirely gone are the distorted, atmospheric, simple, yet somehow effective riffs that made their music so commercially successful and engaging; they don’t make as much of an appearance, but when the band hit’s their stride, it’s difficult to not be taken back to 1994 and the release of their debut album,Sixteen Stone
. From the initial pounding drums and feedback-driven guitar of opening track The Mirror of the Signs
, it sounds as though Bush is actually back, despite two members not returning for the reunion. Gavin's ever presnt raspy voice is obviously a high point of the song, with the catchy chorus of "see yourself through the mirror of the signs/it's alright to lose your mind/in a world of paradise" bringing back memories of Bush's heyday. Sure, the lyrics are nothing to be impressed with, but the chorus is so reminiscent of the Bush of 1994 that it's very difficult to not get ones hopes raised for the rest of the album. This strong start continues with the second song, and first single, The Sound of Winter
; continuing with the initial onslaught of a very grunge-esque riff that still takes a backseat to Gavin's voice, which is a theme with the album, this song not nearly as catchy or memorable as the first, but should lead Bush's foray back into the mainstream. It's these two tracks being no. 1 and no. 2 that set the stage for a great first half of an album.
While the first two tracks are the best on the album, that does not mean there aren’t some fairly bright spots on the rest of the album. In fact, the entire first half of the album can be considered a high point after the second half is finished. A very grungy riff in All My Life
, coupled with a great chorus, Gavin actually demonstrating his accent, and, of all things, a guitar solo, help continue the string of great songs to open up the album; further, The Afterlife
continues the strong opening, with the bass acting as the driving force behind the majority of the song, with a nice sing along chorus included for good measure. This time around the guitar actually is not one of the high points of the song, sounding like a very simple lead that would be used for a pop-rock song on mainstream radio; nevertheless, the drums make more of an impression in keeping the song so up-tempo and one of the more memorable on the album, despite the very bland guitar-work. A song that can be considered one of the high points, regardless of the other songs, is [b]All Night Doctors[b], a phenomenal piano and vocal driven song that is quite akin to one of their massive hits Glycerine
, right down to the dark guitar riff in the background. The piano and guitar, coupled with Gavin’s strong vocals, make this a song that should be remembered like Glycerine
has for the last decade.
The final song that can be considered a solid addition to Bush’s discography actually occurs at the tail end of the album, the hard rocking The Heart of the Matter
; featuring some of the heaviest music on the album, with pounding drums, very audible and strong bass, Gavin showing some serious emotion in his vocals, and more feedback-driven guitar to complement the grungy feel of the entire song, it’s easy to picture this song as a great addition to the first half, as it completely blows away anything on the second half.
Baby Come Home
, is destined to be a radio hit because of very catchy chorus; regrettably, Bob Rock’s production turn what could have been a great second half into a mediocre, wannabe pop-rock collection. Everything before the chorus maintains a semblance of good post-grunge rock; that chorus just screams of the desire to be on the radio despite the quality of the whole song. The rest of the album follows this particular formula, as well. The band seems to take a backseat to Gavin regardless of the strength of the vocals or the quality of the whole of the song; granted, nobody should expect Bush to blow us away with their instrumentals, but the overall bland production ruins the rest of the album, a grave disappointment after a very solid first half. From the overly simple background music of Red Light
, despite a nice guitar solo randomly thrown in, to the awfully pedestrian paint-by-numbers She’s a Stallion
, there is very little to be excited about on the second half of this album. She’s a Stallion
, in particular, is among one of the worst songs Bush has ever put on an album. Particularly terrible about this song are the absurd, oft-repeated lyrics, consisting of gems such as “she’s a stallion(x3)/let her run,” “he’s a guru(x3)/let him through,” and “”she’s a savior(x3)/jesus said let her save.” They may not seem so terrible on paper, but the constant repetition of the same lines for the entirety of the song, almost five minutes in length, make it a hard song to even get through once, let alone multiple times.
So, after ten years on the shelf, two members refusing to come back, a solo album from lead singer Rossdale, and the overly dull production of Bob Rock, how does Bush do? Surprisingly, they have released an album that has quite a few quality songs that should look very nice with their rest of their discography. There are moments where the Bush of 1994 rears their head, especially on the first two tracks, but there are also moments where one realizes that this album was probably just an album to cash in on the name “Bush.” Thankfully, the strong tracks outweigh the weak tracks; stick to those songs in particular, and it speaks volumes for the resiliency of a rock band that hasn’t been relevant for nearly a decade.
Final rating: 3/5 (4/5 for the first half, 2/5 for the second half)
The Mirror of the Signs
The Sound of Winter
All My Life
All Night Doctors
The Heart of the Matter