Bush – Golden State

5 out of 5

Label: Atlantic

Produced by: Dave Sardy

Okay, I’m cheating a little bit: This is a relative rating, compared to Bush’s overall output.  And you’re right I’m bias, as I was hyped for this album both as a return to recording post the Chemicals Between Us fallow period as well as it being helmed by my produced crush, Dave Sardy.

Is it an outstanding Rock performance besides that bias?  Absolutely.  Five out of five?  That’s where the wiggle room may come in.  But I’ll say this: Sardy was the perfect guy for this job, essentially cueing Mr. Rossdale to cut out all the extra shit and just deliver the brass tacks o’ the thing, which I say as a loving Bush fan.  Nirvana copycats and grunge-bandwagon criticisms set aside, Bush’s initial appearance on the scene, to me, was revitalizing, steering away from the dank directions in which the post-Teen Spirit revolution was leading and wrapping Kurt Cobain’s sneering rasp in something a bit more direct.  The group had to double down on their legitimacy and work with Steve Albini for their follow up – a disc with which Golden State stands side by side as sort of a sharpened version of what the band can do well – but in all cases, and perhaps most evident on the aforementioned Chemicals, Rosedale likes his delayed choruses; likes his poetics; likes to play the smart and sad pretty boy on occasion.  90% of the time he’s content to sling riffs and clunkily surreal but effective lyrics about his observations, but the 10% bloat – the shit – can amount to those moments and tracks that may make you sheepishly defend your Bush devotion.  That – that – is what Sardy helped to comb out of the formula, making State the only album thus far in the group’s catalogue that, singles and weepers included, I think holds up from start to finish.

The hallmarks are still here: the Greedy Fly pretty to raucous dropchord shows up in opener Solutions; The Disease of the Dancing Cats fast and furious rocker shows up as the blazing My Engine Is With You, which has one of Bush’s best guitar freakouts ever at its conclusion; and of course, the Glycerine quiet track, here represented by Inflatable – but even this has its edge, with its oblique lyrics and slick but raw sound (another Sardy specialty).

Golden State is, first and foremost, an excellent grunge rock album.  Heavy, memorable riffs and an assortment of twists and turns that dodge exact predictability over the course of its well sequenced runtime, with all of the players offering enthused performances.  But it’s an amazing Bush disc, the back-to-basics approach best represented by that ugly, flat gold artwork, a musical book that doesn’t care about its cover, confident that once you open its “pages,” you’ll be hooked.