WITH THE SEA OF MEMORIES, BUSH DROWN WHAT’S LEFT OF THE LEGACY
Was I foolish to expect more than this? After all, the last two Bush albums were such dizzying letdowns, with 2001’s Golden State all but unlistenable. Still, alt. rock pinup Gavin Rossdale’s post-Bush career contained the delightfully brutish, Page Hamilton-produced Institute project featuring Chris Traynor of Orange 9mm. After his subsequent safe-for-soon-canceled-FOX-shows WANDERlust (again featuring Traynor), a new Bush record seemed like an opportunity to return to his roots and cement the band’s rock legacy.
Here’s the rub, though: The Sea Of Memories isn’t so much a reunion album as another Rossdale solo effort, simply and strategically renamed. For starters, lead guitarist Nigel Pulsford and bassist Dave Parsons–half of the band’s original membership–opted not to sign up for another go-round, thus supplanted by Rossdale solo players Traynor and Corey Britz, respectively. Clearly someone’s been talking to Hamilton, who has made swift work flushing Helmet’s credibility down the toilet in recent years. And yes, drummer Robin Goodridge has returned, giving it more credibility than, say, Hole’s 2010 “reunion” album. However, like cash, majority rules, and this is Rossdale’s parliament, now more than ever.
Still, it seems Parsons and Pulsford, presumably enjoying some very nice royalties, dodged a bullet here. Much like Stone Temple Pilots’ last lackluster reunion LP, everything on The Sea Of Memories is just so de-fanged, inoffensive passive rock with vaguely familiar Pavlovian chorus hooks. Shaved edges and baby-bumpered corners define this pandering endeavor, amounting to the sort of thing a 32-year-old dad could play in the SUV without waking the baby or irking the mother. A bland Killers-circa-2006 vibe (“Afterlife”) persists throughout, with some trite Bush-isms interspersed. Case in point: “Baby Come Home” utilizes the sparse drum-driven verse style used on “Everything Zen” yet with none of the angst or bite. Piano ballad “All Night Doctors” stinks of its sentiments, so much that Johnny Reznick would gag and then just retch and retch as the song reaches its inevitable American Idol-ready conclusion. And speaking of the Goo Goo Dolls singer-songwriter, Rossdale’s gang lifts his late-period style wholesale on “Red Lights.”
Clearly, Paul plus Ringo does not a reunion make.
(1.5 out of 5 horns)