NOBODY UNDERSTANDS Gavin Rossdale. He is misunderstoodness made flesh. He puts his faith in words, and they fail him. He's beautiful, but he's not happy. He's pretty sure rough sex would rock his universe, but can't quite hook up. What Bush's bleak, preening frontman can do, however, is rawk, and tousle with language on top of it. With a voice that cuts like the football captain's "break!" before the Big Game, our dysphoric Adonis slurs Cobainesque slant rhymes over car-wreck arrangements and searing wank. He is burning "complexity" punching through the pane of teen-boy frustration. Rossdale's double-entendres may not reward close reading: "All your metal [or is that "mental"?] armor drags me down/and nothing hurts/like your mouth" could easily be a lament on kissing someone with braces. But the devil is in his delivery. And spat mantras like "make/up/your/mah-hind" somehow take on the course of empire.
Presently competing for the same listening audience as stadium electronica like the Prodigy, Bush charms rockist holdovers with these strained attempts at significance. News flash: High-school boys want to be told what to do ("Breathe in/breathe out"), and lines like "I walk--["woke"?] ["work"?]--away from my machine" can prompt weeks of mental gear-grind. Sure, drum 'n' bass can get relentlessly dark, but nothing titillates your inner-kiddie quicker than a lyric like "there's no sex in your violence."
For the Deconstructed project, Rossdale signs away his corpus to the same electronicats who generally despise his ilk's deliberate wordiness and guitarcentrism. These DJs--gloomy perhaps that The Kids have yet to turn techno-music into life-music--suck out Rossdale's pop blood and attempt to replace it with smart drinks. What results can be as precious as Bush's own rich dance mix of the trenchant "Mouth," or as distant as Tricky's cover of Joy Division's iconic "In a Lonely Place." Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers makes a hornet's nest of "Insect Kin" and Derek DeLarge's "Everything Zen (Lhasa Fever Mix)" is a satisfying club job. Throughout, the best tracks evidence respect for the germ of Rossdale's appeal. Yet Goldie's jungle remix of "Swallowed" snottily burns Bush out of its own song by reducing Rossdale's yowl to a drowning yelp. An easy dis, but where's the fun in that? Best to be friends at this point, 'cause until electronica spawns a breakthrough act that speaks in the damaged poetry of pubescence, remix projects are the music's best hope for pop life.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.