The New State of Affairs
Bush’s Latest Attempt Still Captures Old Spirit
In 1994, four guys from England took over American rock radio. The band was called Bush, and their album was Sixteen Stone. Seven years later, Golden State emerges as the newest attempt to recapture the nation’s airwaves.
Bush has tried to re-invent themselves on each album, but they never lose the sound that distinguishes them from other bands. 1996’s Razorblade Suitcase saw Bush try to achieve a more gritty sound by bringing in Steve Albini of In Utero fame. Science of Things in 1999 brought drum and bass samples and a slightly electronic sound to Bush fans. Despite their best efforts, both of these are distinctly Bush-sounding albums, albeit a bit distinct. Golden State is no exception.
Although it doesn’t stray too far from the standard Bush formula, Golden State does show new depth and maturity from the band. Perhaps the less-than-stellar success of Science of Things, which dropped them from mainstream for a while, gave Rossdale some time to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. Golden State is reminiscent of the first two albums, and the simple cover art suggests that Bush is going back to basics on this one. It’s an idea that’s so crazy it works.
The first single, “the People that We Love,” has all the classic elements that worked so well in the songs of early-nineties Bush. Loud guitars, Gavin Rossdale’s signature singing, and the kind of repetition that made “Machinehead” such an easy song to remember make this track a wise choice as a single.
Even nicer than the fact that “the People that We Love” is a good track is that it is not the only good track on the album. “My Engine is With You” takes a page from the punk handbook, and gives it a bit of a Bush twist. Rossdale opens “The People That We Love” with the repetition of “Speed Kills,” yet he seems to totally disregard his own advice on this track. A blaze of guitar, drums, and rapid-fire vocals, “Engine” packs a lot of energy into two-and-a-half minutes.
If blistering speed isn’t your thing, fear not; there is more to Golden State than ultra-fast post-grunge rock. Like their three previous albums, Golden State has its fair share of memorable slow songs. “Inflatable” is more than just another “Glycerine.” It’s an intimate ballad that will likely find itself in heavy rotation among radio stations in the near future.
Another noteworthy ballad is “Out of this World.” It doesn’t have the same acoustic feel as “Inflatable,” but instead is driven by a sort of musical minimalism and an interesting drum beat. “Float” is one of those tracks that lingers somewhere between the intensity of “Engine” and the calm nature of “Inflatable.” There are a few other songs on the album that may be placed in the same category. “Headful of Ghosts” is one such song. It also holds some examples of another Bush staple: lyrics which border on nonsense. Lines like “you breathe life when you break the walls down” can be found scattered throughout the album. This is characteristic of most Bush songs. According to guitarist Nigel Pulsford, the group generally writes lyrics which reflect their emotions rather than making an intelligible string of words. Rossdale and company tend to write ambiguous lyrics because they feel more people can relate to them.
Although some may have been put off by their recent foray into electronica, this is not an album that should be treated with prejudice. Fans who were disappointed with Science of Things, and even Razorblade Suitcase should give Golden State a try. Even though it is unlikely that it will produce as many hit singles as the multi-platinum Sixteen Stone, Golden State is full of quality tracks that Bush fans old and new will enjoy. More than just a re-hashing of old material, it is a well made, well written, and well thought out album.
Bush received much criticism in the early nineties due to the fact that they were seen as Nirvana wannabes. While they still retain much of the grunge sound that Nirvana made famous, Golden State shows a band which is growing and getting comfortable in their musical abilities. Bush has managed to survive the post-grunge shake-out which left many bands in the cold. Golden State brings Bush into the new millennium while simultaneously looking back on the past, and the result is a solid rock album that won’t leave Bush fans behind.