Bush Sixteen Stone 1994, Trauma Records
Bush, who have been considerably more successful in the USA than here in Britain, got together in 1992 and Sixteen Stone was their debut album. They started out as grunge rockers although their style has evolved over time. Widely considered to just be jumping on the grunge bandwagon by British critics, Sixteen Stone hit number 4 in the American chart but never even made it into the top 50 in the UK where the grunge boat had already sailed by the album’s release date in late 1994.
Single release Everything Zen will rock your socks, it’s a great piece of alt-rock. The next two tracks unfortunately become walls of noise pretty quickly but second single Little Things is an improvement with great guitars and a proper melody, admittedly it’s also the most Nirvana like track too. Comedown, one of their most successful singles is just as loud and rocky but has a beauty to it, it’s the album’s high point (pardon the pun). In the spirit of embracing sex, drugs and rock and roll, we’ve just had our drugs song and Body is our sex song. Lyrically it’s not that exciting, but the beat is good and there is nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just far less interesting than its predecessor. Machinehead is almost poppy, it certainly feels like the most commercial track so far but the guitar riff is pretty sweet. Again, there is a lull in quality before another single brings it back up, this one is the most well known from this album, Glycerine is gentle with nice strings but it feels like a very obvious ploy to make teenage girls fall in love with singer, Gavin Rossdale. This patchy album should really have ended here as the final two tracks are forgettable..
I think it’s probably cool to dislike Bush for being Nirvana rip-offs. There’s only one song on this album that is genuinely Nirvana-like and it’s a good one, but they do sound a lot like a band trying to be Nirvana for a good chunk of this album. There are definitely a few too many songs that feel as if they are grunge-by-numbers. It’s a frustrating album because there is some good stuff on here, it’s just that you feel a bit like your scrabbling in the dirt to find it. The five single releases are easily the best parts of the album and the rest of it seems to have just been cobbled together around them. I feel as if I want to like it more than I actually do and I tried, I really did, but I have to admit defeat since overall it’s mediocre.
Bush continued to find success in the US (They are still touring and making music) and that’s why I’ve included them, because to break the American market before being successful at home is a rare thing for a British act. Indeed, despite their next album reaching the top of the US chart, with the exception of their single Swallowed released in 1996 they have never had much traction in the UK since the grunge moment was over here well before the release of Sixteen Stone.