Bush: Golden State

[22 October 2001]

By Stephanie Dickison

Long Way Down From Where They've Been

Golden State, the new release from alternative-rock mainstay Bush, is finally here, but is it any good?

Bush continues on the road that began with mega hit CD Sixteen Stone, when releasing into the airwaves, “Everything Zen”. “Gylcerine”, “Machinehead” and “Comedown” made them the alternative favorites along with such luminaries of the times as Pearl Jam and Nirvana. While Bush has created a unique sound in the granite-flicked voiced, guitar-driven world of rock, their sound has remained much the same since their debut CD, with the exception of Deconstructed (1997).

Contributing to soundtracks such as Tank Girl, Mallrats, and The Crow: City of Angels, along with the success of the electronic-infused Deconstructed, Bush has been able to stake a permanent place in the music spotlight. However, the release of Golden State will invariably lead to difficulties. Alternative rock has cast a net wide enough to include groups like Staind, Incubus, Limp Bizkit, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and personalities such as Kid Rock or Bif Naked. If you are not heavy rock/pop like crossover artists such as Nickleback or Three Doors Down or angry but rhythmic such as Fred Durst or No Doubt (lead singer Gavin Rossdale’s girlfriend is No Doubt lead-singer Gwen Stefani), then where do you fit in?

Long gone are the days of such Bush hits like “Swallowed” and “Long Way Down”.

When asked by Rolling Stone reporter Christina Saraceno what the band was trying to achieve with the new CD, Gavin replied:

“I think to be honest, a lot of it was thinking about what kind of stuff I wanted to do live. To write new songs, you’ve got to start knocking some songs off the set list, and so I just kind of thought about songs like that, really. So everything has to be quite strident and forceful because we were playing in a rehearsal room and it was horrible [laughs], so it had to be strong.”

Ohhhhh. It’s a “meant-to-be-played-live” CD. Ohhh. The problem is that while Bush may arguably be one of the best live bands touring today, without the CD being recorded live, it comes across as more songs that are very Bush, but no different than the rest, except the rich lyrical content.

Golden State‘s “Headful of Ghosts” is as ethereal as heavy guitars can be and the accompanying lyrics are introspective: “I stand around at American weddings I stand around for family / At my best when I’m terrorist inside at my best when it’s all me / I was there when they took all the people / I was alone in a mental ravine / You breathe life when you break the walls down”

“Superman”‘s lyrics are even more intriguing: “Crucified—for atonal sins re—invent myself / Shed my alter—skin tried to break the mould / Severed whole first you find your threshold bevels / Breathing our your toxic levels / Long slow rope is hanging—now we know what’s coming / Superman—where have you gone”

Bush’s sound is enough to sell CDs time and time again. Full and passionate vocals, tons of guitars, lyrics that both move (“When we die we go into the arms of those that remember us”) and enchant us (“Bathe me in Bacchanalian wine”), and the good looks of Gavin Rossdale that no one, fan nor critic, seems to be able to get past, this is a band that will continue to have a heavy following and will sell heaps of records. Alternative rock has its anchors (Pearl Jam, The Tea Party and Soundgarden), but without a major overhaul in something, Bush will be hard pressed to continue to find a static audience. Golden State is good. It might just not be good enough.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/bush-golden/