Review Summary: Gavin Rossdale finally gives up on the ghost of his classic era, embracing a modern direction for Bush.
I’m not a fan of Bush. The only releases I really enjoyed from their classic era was the electronics-laden The Science of Things
and the remix album all the fans seem to hate. Other than that, they always felt like they were behind the curve when it came to musical influences, and about average in the songwriting department. Of course, they managed a respectable career in the 90s, embracing their Nirvana worship whole-heartedly, but they never managed anything that felt like it had an identity of its own. Their comeback albums beginning with The Sea of Memories
fared even worse, utilizing rehashed ideas that were already stale when they first used them decades earlier, but without the crutch of fame that cushioned their earlier output. With each consecutive release worse than the last, it really seemed like Bush would eventually have to give up on the idea of success in an era where alternative is relegated to the classic rock stations… and maybe that is what happened.
On The Kingdom
it felt like Gavin Rossdale finally gave up on the ghost of their classic era, and really embraced a new direction. It was an album that didn’t rely solely on nostalgia, and finally dropped the blueprint created by members that had been missing since 2002. The Kingdom
took their 90s alt rock foundation, and a bit of their electronic influences, and pushed them towards a modern and heavy (by Bush standards) sound. These changes were tentative steps in the right direction, and they weren’t entirely successful, but it was a start. The Art of Survival
is those tentative steps turned successful sprint, and hopefully signals a new era for the band. Where the previous album was still too polished for its own good, The Art of Survival
features a gritty bass-driven sound that reminds me of post metal bands such as At the Soundawn, and desert rock staples Kyuss. The guitars, too, have dropped any pretense of slick radio friendly rock in favor of bottom-heavy riffs that really do feature a bit of edge. Even the tempos have been slowed to sludgy levels that eschew arena rock aspirations in favor of oppressive atmospheres and pensive moods. All of these changes have led to a modern Bush album that doesn't feel like it is actively chasing trends or nostalgia, and even has an identity (almost) all its own.
Bush were never really an essential band, even during their heyday, preferring to stick to tried-and-true styles pioneered by better artists. With the release of The Art of Survival
that has finally started to change. The Art of Survival
picks up where The Kingdom
left off, but it doubles down on the sludgy, heavier, direction of its predecessor while dumping most the alt rock influences. What’s more, in this era where heavy music is the norm, Bush almost sounds fresh because there’s very few artists blending grungy heaviness with a more accessible songwriting formula. The only thing The Art of Survival
shares with 90s-era Bush is Gavin Rossdale on vocals. Everything else is crunchy and modern sounding and is easily the most unique the band have ever sounded.