Alright, time to come clean. I have never ever heard any of the bands connected to this project (via the members' past exploits with other bands) apart from Bush. Well, I've heard Orange 9mm very briefly, but they were forgettable. So much in fact I had to edit this and the last sentence in when I suddenly realised I had in fact heard them. Should I be reviewing this? Does that really matter? I would argue not, as Rossdale is also the songwriter for his new band, Institute. Therefore, for this review, you can expect me to draw comparisons to Bush and Bush only. Even that in itself seems rather redundant when this CD is actually listened to; sure, the two bands share vocalist and songwriter but this is a different band, not a new Bush album under a different moniker. Although the lyrics are the of same slightly obscure, poetic nature Rossdale pulls off so well and uniquely. He manages to write some pretty odd lines whilst never losing the listener's ear because (s)he doesn't really know what's going on. I find the lyrics on this album a little more straightforward than any of Bush's stuff, but nevertheless, still pretty original.
Now, to me, that poses the question of why these lyrics are a little more straightforward. As many (if not all) of you know, Bush enjoyed HUGE success in the mid `90s, especially in the U.S. of A. Their first album, Sixteen Stone, sold 9 million copies (as far as I can remember) and the following effort, Razorblade Suitcase, managed a further 5 million purchases. Radio hits were a-plenty and appearances on MTV/VH1 were reasonable in number. Bush had certainly hit the big time. What about the third album, I hear you ask? The Science of Things didn't achieve anything like the sales of the previous 2 albums, and the followup, Golden State, flopped even more. Ironically, by that stage, the golden era was well and truly over. People lost interest in the band, even the members. Here we are then in 2005 with Rossdale giving it another shot. With that huge fall from grace in mind, I wondered how radio-friendly this album would be. Surely Gavin would want to go back to the old days of fame and fortune? I personally reckon so. Of course, the easiest way to do that is unleash a batch of songs designed to fit perfectly on rock shows across radio stations all over the globe. Even though radio rock these days is mostly a wasteland of indie crap and pop-punk of the worst kind. Hell, there's not even any nü-metal [Ed.'s note: I wouldn't go that far!].
Put simply, the lyrics, music and overall flow of the album has been streamlined (despite some cool effects) to give a more straight ahead rock sound. Even the guitar riffs are the simplest of Rossdale's career. Indeed, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is what I like to call "Movie-Rock." (OK, I like to call it "Film-Rock", but you Yanks and your different take on the English language...tsk.) Movie-Rock is the sort of rock that doesn't and can never rock your face off or make you go nuts to when no one else is in the house. Movie-Rock sounds amazing on action films when you're watching them in the cinema (theatre. Sorry, theater.). It provides the sort of beef those car chases or gun fights need to make them something special. Anyone seen "Mission Impossible?" I hope you get my point. At the right time and place, this CD does not fail.
Okay, besides all that bollocks I've written above, I'll do my best to tell you how it sounds. The songs here are extremely bass-driven. Most of the verses feature a slow drum beat with a simple but driving bass line (a good example is the second track, "When Animals Attack") behind Gwen's hubby's (I've mentioned his name far too much in this review. There are other band members.). The verses have a nice, relaxed feel to them. The choruses are rocky, with slow, drawn-out melodies that sort of give this album a spacey, atmospheric presence (especially the last track, "Save the Robots") without being boring or quiet. I must say, it works really well. Turned up loud, some of the moments here do raise my pulse occassionally. If you've heard "Bullet Proof Skin," you'll see what I mean -- the main riff is pretty damn quality. Also, the verse riff on "Come on Over" just plain rocks and, with the whole track, is one of the best examples of "Movie-Rock" on here. Catchy enough to make you sing along, but without compromising the rock. I would say that "Bullet Proof Skin" is the best song on here, along with "Ambulance."
In a strange sort of way, this does not sound like Bush, but at the same time, if you didn't like Bush, you won't like this. It just isn't your thing is how I'm going to sum this album up. For anyone else still reading, let me tell you this album is done exceptionally well and is a worthy addition to your collection. Just don't expect to be spinning this one year down the line. Strike now while the iron's hot, it's an enjoyable effort. It's about time radio-rock got louder, and this could be the album to do that.
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