Review Summary: The only way out – is through.Sixteen Stone
was released twenty years ago.
That’s right, it’s been two decades ever since Bush put out their best-selling debut album and became one of the first bands to get the ‘post-grunge’ tag slapped on them, a term that, during its inception, was just an open invitation to be labeled as Nirvana ripoffs. Yet, through all its faults, Sixteen Stone
is actually a pretty good alternative rock album, with plenty of well-known tracks, some hidden gems and a couple of duds. Even though the followups were tolerable at best and absolutely boring at worst, for the most part Bush stayed on the same level of consistency during the late 90s, into the new millennium and through their breakup and eventual reformation in 2011. Although that consistency may just be semi-tolerable radio rock, it’s what they’ve been churning out since 1994, and their second post-reformation album does nothing but continue that trend.
At its core, Man on the Run
is just like any other Bush album. Gavin Rossdale’s raspy British drawl and the band’s generic post-grunge instrumentation still sound just like they did in 1996; now, whether or not that’s a good trait is still up for discussion. There aren’t many risks taken or deviations from the standard formula, and honestly, that’s to be expected. Two decades into their career, Bush are still making, for the most part, the same music they were before the turn of the century. Sure, there have been a few risky plays (releasing the dancier “The Chemicals Between Us” as a lead single surely is one of them), but listeners know exactly what to expect when listening to a Bush record, and Man on the Run
really is no different.
With that said, the band does know how to work their formula well, and their sixth studio album provides the same highlights that were prevalent on records past. Lead single “The Only Way Out” is perhaps the most radio-friendly track on here; unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the best. From the opening riff to the explosion of energy in the chorus, it’s a great choice for the album’s radio anthem, a cut so catchy and memorable that it deserves to be recognized as a single. “Broken in Paradise” serves as the record’s token ballad, with emotional vocal delivery, a nice guitar lick in the chorus and this foreboding sense of nostalgia that adds to its sentimental factor. “Surrender” is another track in the same vein, although its effect would have been increased had it not been placed directly after “Broken in Paradise”. On the other end of the spectrum, opener “Just Like My Other Sins” and the title track are reminiscent of vintage 90s Bush, with memorable hooks, grungy riffs and sold instrumental sections. It’s exactly what one would expect from the band in 2014, and it serves as the backbone of the record.
Like many other Bush albums, the glaring flaw that Man on the Run
suffers from is a surplus of mediocre and boring tracks. With 11 songs clocking in at 51 minutes, the average song length is just under five, and seven cross the four-and-a-half threshold. Considering the fact that the last time the band had a track over five minutes on an album was back in 1999, it’s not surprising that the lengthier runtime affects the quality of certain songs. “Loneliness is a Killer” and “The House is on Fire” are two examples of how dragging a track out to maximal length doesn’t do any favors. They’re repetitive, bland and in the case of the latter, have a tendency to cycle through an array of horrendous lyrics (“I been down, but I never been down there”). Man on the Run
is also distinctly split up into two halves – the first focuses more on up-tempo, riff-driven rockers while the back portion is led by a series of slow, melodic ballads. The problem with this is that instead of spreading them out all around, they’re all clustered around one point in the album, and that leads to a constant feeling of repetitiveness lurking throughout.
All in all, Man on the Run
is just another standard Bush album. It doesn’t pull any tricks or surprises, and aside from the overindulgence in songs that last for about five minutes, it sounds just like how one would expect the British post-grunge act to be exactly twenty years following their first release. While it isn’t all that fresh, there’s still some glimpses of the same amount of energy carried by a much younger Bush, the same one that made such rockin’ tunes like “Machinehead” and “Little Things” two decades ago. The Sea of Memories
proved that the band still had some life left in them following a breakup that spanned ten years, and their second post-reformation album does the same, but to a lesser degree. For every rockin’ tune like “The Only Way Out” or “Just Like My Other Sins”, there’s a borefest that needlessly drags on for a minute more than it should. It’s not time to completely give up on Bush yet, but it’s clear that they’re showing their age, and that’s the dangerous of all weapons in the music industry.