Gavin Rossdale has had a rough few years. A highly publicized divorce from Gwen Stefani and accusations of infidelity have been a distraction, at best. But the frontman has been able to use that drama as fuel for the new Bush album, The Kingdom. And while personal chaos is rarely a good thing, for longtime fans of this seminal grunge band, this is a win, as the band is back to what made them so popular in the first place.
The Kingdom is less reflective than 2017’s Black and White Rainbows, which saw Bush delve a little too deeply in the events surrounding Rossdale’s personal life. The new album is raw and angry, and only dips into self-reflection when needs to tell a story. It’s not hard to pick out which songs Rossdale is using to channel his break up with the No Doubt frontwoman. That angst is not the key driving force in the 12 tracks on The Kingdom, which is a good thing.
The album kicks off with “Flowers on a Grave,” which is also the first single. “Bullet Holes” was technically released first, as part of the John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum soundtrack last year, but the album was still a ways off from being released.
The opening song is fast and catchy with perfect sing-a-long lyrics and composition, calling back to Bush’s heydays in the mid-to-late ’90s. It sets the table for what is to come in terms of angst, as the second song, “The Kingdom,” completely pushes the rock sound with a crunching metal riff that serves as the perfect compliment to the equally angry lyrics. There is so much going on in this song musically that it takes a few listens to truly appreciate how good it is. “The Kingdom” is arguably the best track on the album.
The aforementioned “Bullet Holes” comes next, recalling the sound that made the band famous in the era of grunge. It follows the pattern of some of the band’s best-loved classics, which is a welcome turn. Bush played this song on their recent tour, and it sounded as good live as it does on the album, which is a testament to its construction.
“Ghosts in the Machine” is the first song where the listener can pick up on the echoes of Rossdale’s divorce. He doesn’t hold back with the haunting lyrics as he comes to terms with the loss of his marriage and his ex-wife’s public rebound with country star Blake Shelton.
Four songs in and The Kingdom is setting the pace for a return to form for Bush. Rossdale is the only remaining original member, but his creative direction is not hindered by that fact. His supporting bandmates, including Chris Traynor on lead guitar and Corey Britz on bass, with Gil Sharone and Nik Hughes on drums, have captured the Bush sound in all its glory.
The fun continues with some grunge-era love in tracks “Blood River,” “Quicksand,” and “Send in the Clowns.” It’s around this time that the listener realizes that the first third of the album was no fluke, and The Kingdom might very well be the best Bush record since the ’90s.
The next song, “Undone,” is proof of that statement. It’s a slower, more melodic song, which harkens back to classic Bush songs like “Glycerine” off 1994’s Sixteen Stone. “Undone” is beautiful from beginning to end, as the listener can hear Rossdale’s soul come out in the lyrics.
When Rossdale sings, “I’ll wait ’til the morning after, on my grave, nothing really matters,” you feel it. It’s not hard for the listener to imagine the singer saying these words to his ex-wife as he comes to grips with the end of his marriage. Powerful stuff. This is already an amazing breakup song, if there is a such a thing, and it will be a fan favorite for live shows going forward.
After the soulful detour, The Kingdom ramps back up with “Our Time Will Come” and “Crossroads,” two catchy classic Bush tracks that serve as a bridge to the final two songs on the album.
“Words Are Not Impediments” is a track that seems to try to do too much. It doesn’t have the flow of the previous songs, but the chorus is pretty strong, again relaying the feeling of loss and the anger that comes with it.
The Kingdom ends with one of the best, most complete Bush songs to date, “Falling Away.” It has grungy metal riffs, and then shifts to a melodic chorus that the listener can’t help but to sing along with. This song represents Bush and Gavin Rossdale at their best, and while the title track is arguably the best song on the album, “Falling Away” is very close second.
The Kingdom is the perfect Bush album, and fans should expect nothing less. A Bush album should sound like Bush, and this accomplishes all that and more. It’s hard, fast, and angry, and still manages to take time out for soulful reflection when it needs to. Rossdale and company don’t try to do too much, and there’s very little experimentation.
The band rose to prominence in an era where the radio was clogged with songs that all had this sound. It’s a testament to Rossdale that he can still write an album that could have easily have been released in 1998, or 2002, and still maintain that signature Bush sound and song structure. Many grunge acts have come and gone, and Bush not only proves that they are still a part of the conversation, but that their best days may still lie ahead.
- Flowers on a Grave
- The Kingdom
- Bullet Holes
- Ghosts in the Machine
- Blood River
- Send in the Clowns
- Our Time Will Come
- Words Are Not Impediments
- Falling Away
The Kingdom is available now. Copies purchased from the official Bush website contain two bonus tracks (not reviewed). All images courtesy of Bush.