"The non-royalty of the Grunge era." This is how I've often heard people refer to Gavin Rossdale and his cohorts who make up the band Bush. You see, in the royal lineage of what came out of Grunge music, the family tree usually branches out like this: Alice in Chains or Nirvana are the Kings, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam are the Crown Princes, Stone Temple Pilots usually end up being the Jesters, and Bush is left on the ground staring up at that mighty big grunge redwood, hoping a few leaves will fall their way. How did it happen?
You rarely hear a person say "Bush was the key ingredient in making grunge music what it is today." And with good reason. The band was neither a pioneer nor much of an innovator when it came to creating, what will from here on out be known simply as, "that sound." Rather, they took "that sound" which exploded into the mainstream in 1991 and ran with it. Skeptics would say that the band exploited the movement's popularity for their own self-righteous gains, and to those people I say "...you're probably right." But damn it all, exploitation has never sounded so good.
In 1994, Bush released Sixteen Stone, the main target of the aforementioned skeptics. Their 1996 follow-up, Razorblade Suitcase, drew similar criticism. But by the time The Science of Things
rolled around in 1999, that mass of critics had either realized the active departure from "that sound" Bush was pursuing and respected it, or they had just stopped caring altogether. (Smart money is long the latter.)
With The Science of Things
, Bush could no longer be contained under the big, broadening umbrella of grunge or post-grunge music. This is, at its core, an electronic rock album that showcases an array of outside instrumentation and a heavier use of guitar effects. The only similarity one might find to the band's two previous releases would be–thankfully–Gavin's gruff, gravelly vocals.
The atmosphere they create here–everything from the track organization down to the serenely apocalyptic album cover–is wholly original. This is Bush making a statement to the world that they will no longer just be working in the shadows of "that sound." Diversity is the name of the game. The album feels connected in a way that none of their previous (or future) albums could ever pull off. And while it may not have as many singles or as many smash-you-in-the-sack guitar riffs, what it does have is a tight, united profusion. And for once, they have a theme that is obvious and evident in most every song.
Through minimalist guitar work and amped-up sound effects, the band creates a tone of an unfortunate future like The Matrix trilogy wishes it could. Listening to this album makes you feel like you're stuck inside of someone's Internet connection and there's no way for you to get out of it. Every guitar line echoes inside your brain for days, every verse carries you into an Orwellian world of doomsday, and by the time your finished with it...it's not quite ready to finished with you
. This is really one of those albums that might make you lie awake in bed just a little bit longer at night. Probably something you wouldn't expect from those "Come Down"
The only qualm I have with The Science of Things
is that it is so easy to construe some of the lyrics as being incredibly preachy in its way of forewarning. Think of the Al Gore "film," An Inconvenient Truth; but now put it into musical form. That's what a couple of songs feel like here (primarily Spacetravel
and Dead Meat
). So, for the most part I tolerate those songs because I know that they add to the album as a whole. But if you look a little further beneath the surface, I think that this isn't so much a foreshadowing of realtime events, but a storybook of futuristic woes. It's a sci-fi movie for the ears only.
To discuss the tracks individually would actually be a huge discrediting to what The Science of Things
has accomplished. I mean, if I were to just
listen to "Disease of the Dancing Cats"
out of the album's context, I wouldn't get much from it. I would most likely turn it off after the first minute or so, in fact. But when I hear that opening meltdown of guitars blasting through the speakers after a couple of placid, build-up songs, I'm hooked. Just absolutely hooked.
More than any other Bush album, this is intriguing on a thousand different levels. It's not a one-time listen, either. It's not grunge; it's not Nirvana-esque in any way. It's Bush breaking past all of its preset musical boundaries and developing a haunting, electronic rock sound that is all their own. In fact, it's the last time that I've heard anything like it. So maybe they don't belong up at the top of the grunge tree with Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but they certainly do belong somewhere in the canon of rock innovators. Related Reviews for This Artist: Sixteen Stone Glycerine [Single]