We gave it a C
Before we address the inevitable comparisons to a certain alterna-rock hero who died of wounds self-inflicted by a shotgun blast, let’s give Bush some credit. On their debut album and now its follow-up, Razorblade Suitcase, they remember that alternative rock was once dark and strung out, the music equivalent of a drug withdrawal. Razorblade is an unrelenting stream of howling, vindictive songs about personal relationships and attempted suicide: ”I’m gonna find my way to the sun/If I destroy myself, I can move on,” spits out singer Gavin Rossdale in ”Distant Voices.” There’s no denying that Rossdale has a distinctive voice — not his own voice, of course, but it is distinctive.
Behind him, his band mates pound out bludgeoning riffs that crest and crash like stormy waves. Unlike so much current, toothless alt-rock, Razorblade Suitcase has, at best, a corrosive power. It’s something of a grunge primer, even if it emanates from Brits. The droney, unconventional song structures, the absence of guitar solos, the lurching rhythms, the exhilarating sense of release: The album is a time-capsule-ready artifact of the ways in which alterna-rock rewrote the rules of rock songwriting and production.
That said, there is no escaping the thought that somewhere, Kurt Cobain’s ashes are turning in his urn. Rossdale’s voice has precisely the same verge-of-cracking phrasing as that of the late Nirvana frontman, and the effect remains unnerving. It doesn’t help that the album was produced by Nirvana collaborator Steve Albini (who surely has bills to pay, too) and that the best songs (the pent-up ”Swallowed,” the cello-laced ”Straight No Chaser”) could have been on the record Nirvana never made. Alas, Rossdale has none of Cobain’s sardonicism, resulting in glaringly awful Angst 101 rhymes. Two years after Cobain’s death, plenty of us wish he were still around, and wonder where his muse and torment would have taken him. And once again, Bush make you feel as if he were still alive and, if not well, at least productive. But then the record ends, and reality sets in, and you too move on. C