Gavin Rossdale can rightly be accused of a multitude of artistic sins—he’s a grunge-rock opportunist, a terrible lyricist, a precursor to everything awful now dominating modern-rock radio—but nobody can take away his canny sense of timing. Emerging just months after Kurt Cobain’s death, Bush’s multi-platinum 1994 debut, Sixteen Stone, cashed in on the public’s demand for Nirvana-sounding product right when the originator suddenly went out of business. Eventually Bush’s fortunes crashed with the collapse of ’90s alternative rock, but now that the sound Bush appropriated is fashionable again, Rossdale is here to clean up one more time with Bush’s first studio album in 10 years, The Sea Of Memories.
Just in case the title isn’t enough of a tip-off, The Sea Of Memories is a full-on grunge revival record, with Rossdale summoning up the same mix of groan-rock histrionics and frustratingly catchy (though ultimately dull and empty) pop hooks that made Bush a champion of the also-rans all those years ago. The power-drill guitars and undeniably uplifting chorus of “All My Life” successfully recaptures the mercenary spirit of Sixteen Stone, lifting part of its chorus from Jane’s Addiction’s “Ocean Size.” A little thievery is no crime in rock ’n’ roll, but when Rossdale quotes the exact same song on the album’s superfluous closer, “Be Still My Love,” the pointlessness of Sea Of Memories becomes impossible to ignore.
Not only does Bush have nothing new to say, it doesn’t even have anything new to rip off. That includes Bush’s own back catalog; “All Night Doctors” is a weak stab at a “Glycerine”-type power ballad, while the silly “Red Light” recalls “Little Things” tempered with Rossdale’s “mature” musings on learning from his past mistakes. In contrast, The Sea Of Memories plays like an endless replay of Rossdale’s past musical miscues.