PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Bush: The Sea of Memories

Bush's first album in nine years will most likely please fans who’ve been hoping for a reunion, but it will not change the minds of those who relegated Bush to nothing more than a disingenuous rip-off of so many more brilliant '90s alterna-rock acts.


Bush

The Sea of Memories

Label: eOne Music
US Release Date: 2011-09-13
UK Release Date: 2011-10-31
Amazon
iTunes

Oh, Bush. What can I say? They try oh so very hard to make relevant, introspective music that incorporates both a self-analysis and the relation of that self-awareness to their greater social reality. This is a massive undertaking for a band that is pretty much a slightly more sophisticated version of Foo Fighters (note that I said “more sophisticated” and not “better”). It’s an admirable task they take on, but unfortunately always fall short. If only they could give in to the playfulness and absurdity their music offers, they’d probably be celebrated for the fun stadium rock they produce, rather than teased and scoffed at for their attempt to be something greater than they are.

That’s what Bush is -- stadium rock. There’s nothing immediately wrong with that -- it’s fun, loud, vibrant, catchy and at times, chaotic. Hell, the '80s flourished on stadium rock, and who won’t admit that Def Leppard wrote some of the most enjoyable hard rock tunes? Bush, on the other hand, emerged in the heyday of grunge and consequently kept coming up against the inevitable comparisons with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other Seattle-based wonders. Practically disowned from their native England, Bush capitalized on the crunchy sound of the '90s by producing an angsty teen hit with their debut album, Sixteen Stone. Three albums later, and the death of grunge, Bush silently disappeared from the limelight.

Now, nine years later, Bush has “reunited” in the same way the Smashing Pumpkins and Hole have “reunited” (without two of their founding members: Parsons on bass guitar or Pulsford on guitar). The Sea of Memories is the result of Rossdale’s thinly disguised follow-up solo effort, which does nothing to build on the band’s distinctive sound. But then again, all of Bush’s songs were written solely by Rossdale, so the missing members shouldn’t really affect the evolution of the band. Unfortunately, nothing on The Sea of Memories sounds anywhere near as “original” as some of their earlier work. It doesn’t crackle with the grit of hits like “Machinehead” or “Come Down”, nor is it as “inspired” as Bush in their most experimental, as on “Greedy Fly” or “Swallowed”. What it does sound like is a close retreading of what the band did on their last few albums (which failed to resonate with fans), while simultaneously trying to capitalize on the new trend of rock -- a trend which leans closer to pop than rock. Tracks like “All My Life” and “Stand Up” explode in booming choruses that with different production (just speed up the tempo and switch up the guitars and drums for synthesizers) you’d have instant hits for pop artists such as Jessie J or Lady Gaga.

It’s a shame, too, because Gavin isn’t a completely horrible songwriter. He will occasionally churn out lyrics that can be (perhaps unintentionally) poignant and poetic. But given the numerous times his lyrics border a vomit inducing nausea, one can only conclude that these occasionally good lyrics are a fluke. On The Sea of Memories there are no such flukes of inspired lyrics. What Gavin seems to have done here is trade in the angsty pessimism that characterized so many '90s grunge acts for an “I’ll-be-there-for-you” attitude, sprinkled with some “love-is-grand” gestures and “hooray-for-everything” queasiness. The result are lyrics like “Touch the sky because now we are weightless / Floating out into empty spaces / We are faceless, we are soldiers / We believe what you told us / I've seen you dance / I've seen you dance through the radio / All my life / I have waited for this moment / All my life, tonight / (Feelings don't die) / All my life / I have waited for this moment / All my life, tonight / (Ocean-sized).” They’re not immediately horrible, but given that they are really no better than your average pop tune (and coupled with the fact that every other song on the album is similar in tone), they can become kind of grating.

It doesn’t help that Bush recruited long-time Metallica producer Bob Rock who’s production technique is never subtle. Every guitar riff and every drum-fill is highlighted, and nothing is missed. He definitely has a “what-you-hear-is-what-you-get” approach to rock production but alas, when everything is highlighted, nothing stands out. And that’s precisely the problem with The Sea of Memories. Its grandeur style is forceful and imposing. There’s no subtle brilliance, there’s no hushed tones or subdued production techniques. Even on ballads like “All Night Doctors” (a blatant regurgitation of Bush’s massive hit “Glycerine”), the piano is blaring, and when those characteristic crunchy Bush guitars come in, they’re overpowering.

The Sea of Memories will most likely please those few Bush fans who’ve been hoping for a reunion, but it will not change the minds of those who relegated Bush to nothing more than a disingenuous rip-off of so many more brilliant '90s alterna-rock acts. This isn’t to say the album is awful -- there are some pretty fun stadium rock moments. As for the future, we can only hope that they drop their thin “artistic” pretense and embrace the stadium sound they were born to deliver.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

20 Songs from the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.