Saturday, March 20, 2010

90's Guilty Pleasures #20: Bush "Everything Zen" (1995) / "Greedy Fly" (1997)

I know only 2 songs have been listed for this entry, but for all intents and purposes, those 2 songs are bookends... This entry is a celebration of Bush's first 7 consecutive radio singles, released between January 1995 and March 1997, which stand as the most underrated string of radio hits from any 90's alt-rock band. The first 5 were from Sixteen Stone, an album which had 5 good songs (and let's be honest, that's better than lots of bands can say), and the first 2 singles from Razorblade Suitcase.

"Everything Zen"
Chaotic guitar sounds & mindless nonsense lyrics... I dismissed it for many years, until realizing those 2 elements were exactly what made it brilliant.

"Come Down"
This may have been their best song, noteworthy for the strength of its chorus, "I don't wanna come back down from this cloud..." In terms of song structure, it's comparable to that of Def Leppard's "Armageddon It," in that the chorus kind of overtakes the entire song and becomes that soaring anticipated moment.

"Little Things"
Four chords repeated throughout, with quiet verses and a loud chorus, kinda like this other song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that might have inspired a few ideas...

Yet another 4-chord single, this distortion-heavy power-ballad ended up becoming Bush's signature song, thanks to its singalong-friendly vocal melody. "Glyserine" also contains an often overlooked and bizarre coda of cellos, possibly an earnest attempt to give the song more depth than it deserves, and it pisses me off when radio stations crudely edit the ending since it's probably the most interesting section of the whole song.

Their hookiest single... "Breathe in, breathe out..." Is it really the context of the band's image that turned off the most people? These guys are a pop band who enjoy distorted guitars. So what if they're they're not especially "alternative," and they tailor their songcraft with Top 40 in mind... Well, guess what? They did it a million times better than Nickelback or 3 Doors Down could have ever dreamed...

By this point, Bush were surely very rich, and Gavin Rossdale was surely making stains with Gwen Stefani on a nightly basis. They had the ability to hire any producer they wanted for Razorblade Suitcase, and so for whatever reason, Steve Albini was recruited. Albini likely did not enjoy any of the songs Bush wrote for this album, but it's still interesting to hear what a band like Bush sounds like with the classic Surfer Rosa drum sound. Unfortunately, this album's first 2 singles were its only noteworthy moments...

Teen couples getting super PDA amidst a crowd of typical 90's apathy... It's quite epic and anthemic sounding, more so than their previous singles.. and probably their 2nd best after "Come Down," thanks in no small part to a strong Pixies influence.

"Greedy Fly"
Their darkest and strangest single.. Probably their most underrated, and certainly the least popular out of the seven listed here.. With all its scattered quiets and louds throughout, all in atypical areas, it's remarkable that it received any radio airplay at all...

And then they jumped the shark. "Mouth" and "The Chemicals Between Us" didn't quite match up to their previous efforts. By the time Gavin was performing entire sets shirtless as he did at Woodstock '99, it became clear that Bush's pop elements had begun to elude them, and their first few singles continued receiving far more airplay than anything released since then (with good reason).

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