Nine albums in, Gavin Rossdale and co, are more than surviving; they are thriving with their best album in decades. I've always been fascinated by the career of Bush.
They are a band that, when you mention them to most British folk, will meet with raised eyebrows and possibly a mention of "doesn't the lead singer have a daughter who's a model or something" Mention them to rock-loving Americans however, and it is a completely different story. Why, then, are Bush so revered in the US? Maybe this album can explain that.
"Heavy Is The Ocean", the opening track, kicks off with trademark 'Bushness' (yes, I've created a new word), low bass, drums that hang in the air and a proper grunge riff. Rossdale's coarse vocal slowly growing and growling. It's a song I can imagine listening to at full volume driving down Sunset Boulevard, top-down, heads nodding along. Not sure it would work as well on the M6 Birmingham toll road, mind you.
"Slow Me" is another slice of classic Bush, a giant chorus, we run refrain and a mention of America. You've got a nod to Stone Temple Pilots via lead guitarist Chris Traynor's riffs and chords. It is a song that would sit comfortably on Razorblade Suitcase; in fact, it would complement it brilliantly.
Want more riffs? "Human Sand" is full of them and does that thing that Pearl Jam does so well, drops the guitar at points and leaves the bass to be king for a bridge or two. Glorious stuff. "Kiss Me I'm Dead" is a song born for stadiums; it has a Linkin Park feel to it; I guarantee you Hybrid Theory was on rotation in the band's studio when they were recording the album.
"Identity" is another heavy-hitting track, proper full-on post-grunge goodness; it swirls around the room and has that almost whispering chorus that bands of Bush's ilk love so much. "You can't kill the American dream", sings Rossdale, yet another nod to the US of A.
If you know this band's work, then you're probably wondering by now why I haven't mentioned a trademark ballad. Fear not, dear reader, "Creatures Of The Fire" is, can you guess? A beautiful ballad. It is a love song that slows the record down to a delicate tempo, a modern version of "Glycerine", if you will.
"Judas Is A Riot" and "Gunfight" bring the noise back to the table, Judas... has a riff lifted from Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (the algorithm played a Smashing Pumpkins song after the album had finished), whilst "Gunfight" discusses gun violence and the questioning of God. America anyone?
The closing track, "1000 Years", brings the record and tone down; like a hazy sunset, it slowly fades but remains pretty beautiful. "I wish we could sleep for a thousand years, " sings Rossdale, "we're sinking" there's clearly some heartache and loss fuelling this song, something we can all relate to at some point in our lives, sure.
The Art Of Survival isn't going to win over any new fans; it isn't trendy, and it won't make tik-tok or go viral. It will, however, appeal to those who know the band and those who might dip their ear into the void of latter-day rock. And it is definitely American!