Kinda like the UK’s answer to Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, Bush showed up in the early 90’s, bringing some welcome grunginess to the charts with singer Gavin Rossdale’s gruff tones swaggering away in songs like “Swallowed”, thereby proving that you don’t have to be from Seattle to excel at grumpy rock.
Yes, grumpy rock.
I’m renaming “grunge” as a genre: deal with it.
After a 10 years-long silence, Bush returned in 2011 with the album The Sea Of Memories armed with a new studio and an updated sound. But was it worth the wait? Did the album remind us about how worthy Bush were as a band back in the day or did it cement them as “past it”?
The album received some positive review but the response was mostly mixed, which means that it could have gone either way.
The Sea Of Memories opens with “The Mirror Of The Signs” and, right away, you notice that Bush have introduced a more electronic touch to their established style. As it turns out, Gavin Rossdale’s grungy vocal tones work beautifully with this new, fuller sound. The song itself is a perfect album-starter with its fun, catchy build-up and atmospheric payoff. The great thing is that, as different as Bush’s new sound is, it still sounds very much like them, their identity remaining intact during the entire album, luckily.
“The Sound Of Winter” follows and, although it’s a grungier track as a whole, it also has a lighter, more poppy chorus. It’s a solid single with some great guitar work. The album then gives us “All My Life”, which kicks off with a rockier, sleazier rhythm then delivers another catchy chorus. It’s a simple song but it works.
“The Afterlife” is next and, right off the bat, it’s a more upbeat tune with a build up reminiscent of Oingo Boingo‘s “On The Outside” of all things. The song boasts the best chorus so far and it’s actually one of the best, most accomplished and memorable tracks on the album. It just develops quickly into a really cool tune with a genuinely nice melody.
From upbeat, we soon go to melancholic with “All Night Doctors”, a softer, slower, piano-led song with a pretty melody and great lyrics. The electric guitar kicks in later and the track develops at a perfect pace. It’s a break from the faster songs preceding it but it makes sense seeing as the album’s main hit, “Baby Come Home”, is next and kicks in straight away. This one feels like a win from the get-go: you’ve got cool, moody, well written verses leading you to a very catchy chorus executed with just the right amount of heart and energy. It’s just a great track.
A lighter effort, “Red Light” shows off some versatility from the band as they try out different beats and a somewhat more optimistic mood. It’s enjoyable but, admittedly, but if you’re hoping for something edgy, this isn’t the track for you. “She’s A Stallion” follows and manages to be the most forgettable song on the album due to its lack of shape. It opens with a couple of different beats before settling into a melody you can’t quite figure out. This is one of those songs you’re never sure is going anywhere and it doesn’t, really. It feels more like the type of track U2 would pull off, weirdly enough.
The much more entertaining “I Believe In You” gets us back on track with its more ‘Bushian’, slightly sinister-sounding verses and its paranoid chorus. It’s a solid, especially well-produced track that’s well worth listening to, especially if you’re a fan of Bush’s older sound as this doesn’t stray too far away from that. Song number 10 is “Stand Up” and its cool melody builds up to a hugely fun chorus. It’s one of the catchiest and best of the bunch so, by this point, the album is well and truly back to its heights. Another song that’s very Bush is the next one, “The Heart Of The Matter”: it’s rockier, grungier and altogether edgier. This one should please the faithful old fans, who’ll no doubt head-bang their way through this one at concerts.
And finally we have “Be Still My Love”, not only a beautiful ballad on its own but arguably one of the band’s best songs to date. Much like how Eddie Vedder can scream his head off one second then nail a softer, more poetic track, Rossdale delivers those heartbreaking lyrics in such a heartfelt way that the song can get pretty moving. It’s the perfect song to end on and should leave you on a teary-eyed high. It’s a gorgeous little track I personally couldn’t get enough of.
That this album received mixed reviews is understandable: every time a band disappears then comes back ages later with a slightly different sound, it’s bound to piss off a bunch of people, even die hard fans.
That said, The Sea Of Memories, while a bit of a twist on the band’s usual style, is clearly a return to form and a more than worthwhile vehicle for the band to come back with. It’s packed with catchy, fantastically well put together tracks and Bush somehow still manage to stay true to themselves throughout, never delivering a crappy song on top of it.
I’m happy to give this one 4 Happy Cobains out of 5 as it was a nice surprise and I find myself going back to it every so often.