Bush is a band best known for a stream of hits in the early 90s. Songs like “Glycerine,” “Comedown” and “Machinehead” are deeply ingrained in the childhood memories of the current college generation. Since their hiatus in 2002, the band has released only one marginally successful album, 2011’s “The Sea of Memories.” Two decades after the release of their seminal record “Sixteen Stone,” the question stands: can their latest effort elevate Bush back to their former glory or is “Man on the Run” doomed to be just another ill-fated comeback by a band past their prime?
The first track, “Just Like My Other Sins,” instantly delivers the instrumental quality listeners have come to expect, with shifting tempos and catchy distorted riffs that propel the track. Even the synth instrumentation, which seems unnecessarily tacked onto every track, is not entirely obnoxious here.
Unfortunately, the quality only gets worse from there. The instrumentals are simply uninspired, passing through a doldrum of repetitive, predictable riffs that create a featureless, unmemorable sonic scape. If the instrumental quality of this album leaves something to be desired, then the quality of songwriter Gavin Rossdale’s lyrics is flat-out disappointing. “Man on the Run” is filled with generic, hackneyed lyrics that make even its instrumentation look inspired.
Something has gone horribly wrong in the song writing process, when halfway through a five minute track — “Eye of the Storm” — all that remains are two repetitions of the chorus, which includes the song’s title a mind-boggling, nine times.
It seems nearly impossible that a song beginning with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”could take a wrong turn toward generic — yet somehow “Dangerous Love” presents near zero lyrical quality save what was stolen from Vonnegut.
Without a doubt, the best track in terms of both instruments and lyrics is “The Golden Age,” which shockingly appears only as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album. Perhaps then, it is incredibly apt that the first bonus track on the album is entitled “Let Yourself Go,” because as a lyricist Rossdale certainly has.
The major problem of the album is that every track is painfully formulaic. For a band whose earlier work was lauded for its inventive, chaotic style, this is nearly unthinkable. Yet every song progresses mechanically from verse to chorus and back again, with a synthesizer heavy bridge three quarters of the way through. The entire album feels like a worn-out retread by a band out of both money and ideas.
That is not to say that the album is awful. All of the songs presented here are solid, both instrumentally and vocally. While generic, none are glaringly bad. This is not, by any measure, the worst album of the year. It is incredibly competent.
Despite being a technically sound album, this simply does not feel like a Bush album. It does not live up to the quality their fans have come to expect over the last 20 years.
For fans with high expectations, the unexciting instrumentals and uninspired lyrics of this album will indubitably feel less like the latest effort by 90s alternative rock legends Bush, and more like something you do behind one.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’ve Never Listened to “Sixteen Stone.” This album, while not technically awful, was boring and uninspired. Certainly, it does not represent the quality the band is capable of, e.g. the quality of their earlier work.