After a decade of dormancy, the founder and leader of grunge phenomenon Bush has revived the band that helped define a decade in popular music.
And this time singer-guitarist Gavin Rossdale is steering the ship without the support – or interference – of a major label.
Released Tuesday, “The Sea of Memories” is Bush’s first album in 10 years, and the band’s first independent release since its major-label debut, 1994’s “Sixteen Stone.”
A pillar of ’90s grunge-era music, “Sixteen Stone” went six-times platinum, cementing British-born Bush as one of the most commercially successful bands of the decade, selling more than 10 million records in the U.S.
Following the release of its fourth album, “Golden State” – a commercial failure by comparison – Bush systematically disbanded in January 2002, starting with the departure of co-founding lead guitarist Nigel Pulsford, who gave up the group’s grueling tour schedule to spend more time with his family. Bassist Dave Parsons soon followed.
Rossdale spent the better part of the next decade pursuing new projects, starting up the band Institute and a solo project, with back-of-the-mind hopes for Bush reunion all the while.
“My delay in reuniting the band was really waiting for Nigel to come back,” Rossdale says in a news release. “So Institute and my solo career were much more by default then by design.”
After accepting that Pulsford wasn’t returning, Rossdale combined with Bush drummer Robin Goodridge, Institute guitarist Chris Traynor (who also stood in on tour when Pulsford dropped out) and relatively unknown bassist Corey Britz to bring back Bush.
The band went into the studio last year to record its comeback album with Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith), but split with former label Interscope over creative differences, opting instead to self-release the album on Rossdale’s own Zuma Rock Records imprint in partnership with E1 Music.
Throughout the record there are experiments with feedback effects mixed in with wah-wah guitar and mountainous rhythm assaults. Especially on arena-rock-esque ballads “Be Still My Love” and “All Night Doctors,” power-chord guitar walls create a wailing force as the backdrop to Rossdale’s signature rasp.
“Afterlife” stands out in the set for its dance-pop overdrive while “Red Light” finds Rossdale pushing the limits of his voice into the upper register.
Though the new version features only half of the original lineup, “The Sea of Memories” sounds like classic Bush, recalling elements of “Sixteen Stone’s” raw edge as well as the more progressive aspects of the band’s later works, such as the electronic enhancements of 1999’s “The Science of Things.”
With “The Sea of Memories,” Bush has one foot in the past and one in the future, but a presence that is all its own.