- The infectiously catchy guitar licks
- It's been-there done-that vibe
- It's tendency to fall just short of the mark
On their seventh album, twenty-one years on from their worldwide commercially-successful sophomore effort Razorblade Suitcase – their only true successful record in their homeland of the UK – first-wave of grunge groupies-turned-arena-rockers Bush navigate the ever-changing map of middle-ground that many of their peers have struggled with to and fro throughout their own careers (Soundgarden’s 2012 comeback King Animal comes to mind), ditching any of the edginess they pioneered alongside their contemporaries in the mid-90’s in favour of over-polished made-for-Britain radio-rock which can be described as simply and sufficiently as the result of Chad Kroeger replacing Simon Neil as the frontman of Biffy Clyro.
Whilst yes, this reviewers opening opinion comes off as a hostile approach to ‘Black And White Rainbows’, admittedly, it’s not that much of a bad thing. Honestly. Bush, who have sold over 25 million records worldwide, have never managed to replicate their success overseas back at home in the UK, and so it hasn’t hurt for frontman Gavin Rossdale to take up a chair on the well-established talent show The Voice UK, in which a tonne of people have taken to Twitter to proclaim they have no idea who he is – but that they kind of like him, which when you’re releasing a new album, isn’t that bad a bit of exposure.
However, in an almost desperate-like attempt to appeal to a British audience, they’ve taken the things about arena rock that are most popular in the UK right now – which is where the Biffy Clyro reference comes in, through dream-pop screeching guitar licks and elaborately-planned yet half-baked choruses that call to be chanted yet fall just a little too short of making the mark they need on simpler ears – and thrown it mercifully with American radio-ready ballads and bangers, although the bangers are few and far between.
Apart from first-single and album-opener ‘Mad Love’, – which is a poorly-written under-executed attempt at a radio-friendly early-noughties ballad – there isn’t a bad track on the album at all, there’s just not an overly great one either. Quite frankly, no track exceeds anything that isn’t average, a far-cry from their hey-days and yet it all is unequivocally catchy, from the echoing explosion of ‘Sky Turns Day Glo’ to the darkly-forceful sing-along-heavy ‘Water’, to the progressively riff-heavy Puzzle-era Biffy Clyro-aping ‘Toma Mi Carazon’ which playfully toys with tingling female-vocals. Lyrically, Rossdale teases out his thoughts on love, loss, and why the world is, as always, going round in circles engaged in a vicious cold war with itself as if it were one giant catch-22, and whilst these are all appropriate themes, Bush’s appropriation of them feels somewhat like a been-there done-that got-the-t-shirt moment.
This isn’t the post-reunion swansong Bush were probably hoping for, nor is it the British invasion they so desperately desire, but in ‘Black And White Rainbows’, Gavin Rossdale and co. have designed an album that is as infectiously catchy as it is inordinately average.