Bush – Man On the Run

4 out of 5

Label: Zum & Rock Records

Produced by: Nick Raskulinecz (Tracks 1, 2, 4 – 8, 12, 13), Jay Baumgardner (3, 9 – 11, 14)

‘Man On the Run’ is a good alternative rock album.  It’s a pretty great Bush album.  When you start to reconcile those two statements, and accept that Bush was a primary force in shaping the post-Nirvana grunge world – and different offshoots off pop music to come – it clicks that ‘Man On the Run’ is a pretty great album, no qualifiers attached.  Of course, it still carries with it a bevy bag of judgments that can be lightened based on your opinion on grunge, or Bush – primarily whether or not you like the latter, which I do – but nonetheless, Rossdale has made his stay in Musicland a welcome one by continually nudging his band just far enough away from center and in varying directions each time such that its honestly never sounded like a memory lane trip, or an attempt to redo Sixteen Stone.  He’s got a smart ear for song construction and though never surprises with his lyrical content, similarly puts enough thought into the lines such as to prevent being ashamed to sing along (plus, he’s gotten more comfortable with not having to try to stretch for oddball metaphors, so the words feel more naturalistic).  Anyhow.  Preamble.  On to the review.

Bush has worked with notable producers on each of their albums, and ‘Man’ is no exception – Baumgardner has plenty of experience in 00’s radio grunge like Papa Roach, and Raskulinecz has proven himself as a master of textures, most recently on Mastodon’s ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun.’  Both men offer very valid flourishes to the disc.  As with on ‘Science of Things,’ there are notable electronic blips and bloops throughout ‘Man on the Run,’ but the difference being that they don’t feel like a questionably tossed-on layer, misunderstood by both Gavin and producers how best to take advantage of them.  From the metallic manipulations that give the hard-edged opener ‘Just Like My Other Sins’ an awesome bite and give a track like ‘Let Yourself Go’ a modern groove that sets it apart from the standard Bush template.  These elements are almost always subtle and actually add some fun dimensions when giving the disc a spin on headphones.  Raskulinecz gets a little lost when the tracks aren’t directly based around a riff or a breakdown – like the straight-forward, soaring rock of ‘This House Is On Fire’ – and it’s easy to get lost in the disc’s midway point as these tracks stack up.  But there’s an effective usage of guitar layering throughout ‘Man’ that’s much looser than we’ve previously heard from the band, and after a few listens, it really helps these tracks to open up.  Baumgardner, as with most modern rock producers, sharpens our guitars and punches up our drums on the rock tracks, but it serves the band well, since Gavin has always penned immediately grabbing riffs and drummer mainstay Robin Goodridge has rarely gotten the focus; while he’s done his share of keeping the beat, like Rossdale, he’s learned where to add a bit of individuality when needed, so it was nice to notice the drums for once on a Bush album.

‘Sea of Memories’ felt like a bit of a forced return; ‘Man On the Run’ feels much more comfortable with itself, honest with its intentions and with the band’s role in the current music world.  No, it won’t change your opinion of the band, or grab the ear of a listener who lived through grunge as something radically life-changing.  But it’s a strong rock album, smartly sequenced with a pack of very catchy songs up front  and then peppered throughout.  …And once you’re listening, and you realize that, yeah, it’s a Bush song that’s getting stuck in your head, it might dawn on you as well that’s it’s a pretty great album indeed.

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