Album Reviews

Bush – The Art Of Survival

(BMG) UK release date: 7 October 2022

Three decades in, their ninth album is post-grunge done right, with action-packed, energetic tracks as well as reflective, politically-motivated songs

Bush - The Art of Survival Bush, through line-up changes, a split and subsequent reformation, have long been something of an enigma. Formed in London, the rockers released their debut album Sixteen Stone back in 1994 at a time when Britpop had seized hold of their home nation, which mostly ignored them. But they racked up a Grammy award, sold over 20 million albums worldwide – half in the US – and current frontman and rhythm guitarist Gavin Rossdale married Gwen Stefani.

Their second album Razorblade Suitcase topped the US chart and went Top 5 in the UK. These were feats they would not repeat. Yet while a split in 2002 lasted fully eight years, a reformation has, with the release of The Art Of Survival, now yielded more albums than they’d released prior to it. It’s an apt title.

For all that, there’s a sense of familiarity immediately apparent on their new work. The Art Of Survival starts with Heavy Is The Ocean, a track with captivating guitar riffs that appear to emulate the balance of a sail boat travelling across the Atlantic and back. The LP’s second single, it follows the catchy More Than Machines, a solid first choice. Both reflect the band’s chuggy, radio-friendly rock sound down the years that has found their music used on movie soundtracks such as John Wick, rather than striking out anew. At this stage of their career, this is to be expected. 

More Than Machines amalgamates a powerful hook with grinding riffs, guttural distortion and lyrics that explore relevant topics such as women’s rights and the development of new AI technologies. “Girls, you are in control, not the government” is a clear reference to Roe v Wade being overturned by the US Supreme Court in June 2022, while We Are More Than Machines reflects the human condition when confronted with seemingly non-stop mechanisation and the mildly paranoid possibility of being replaced by robots. The song also considers the destruction of the planet for money. Cheery stuff. 

These topics, particularly the robotisation of society and impact of greed on the environment (you can hear about “fumes in the Amazon” in Kiss Me I’m Dead), permeate the entire album. However The Art Of Survival is according to Rossdale about surviving against the odds: great resilience in the face of war, endless instances of racism, gender politics (make what you will of Identity), a pandemic, and a melting pot of what we’ve experienced. The punchy Shark Bite is one of the album’s highlights, as it is the loud-quiet-loud Judas Is A Riot, which throbs rhythmically into Gunfight, while there’s some variety too with two ballads, Creatures Of The Fire and 10,000 Years.

The album feels like a good way to succeed 2020’s The Kingdom. For The Art Of Survival, Bush re-teamed with producer Erik Ron and collaborated again on two tracks with composer Tyler Bates, known for his work in films like 300 and the John Wick franchise. As a whole, it’s a robust LP, deeply in touch with the zeitgeist of an era marked by, indeed, surviving against, the odds. While surprises are few, fans will find plenty to satisfy here.

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Bush – The Art Of Survival