Although harshly denigrated by both critics and fellow bands alike, and despite being practically ignored in their homeland, Bush became the first British band to make it big in America in some time. Perhaps it was because their sound was so American. With a poster boy frontman in Gavin Rossdale and a sound that at times uncannily mimicked Nirvana, Bush shouldered much of the blame for the watered down “grunge” rock that was being spoon-fed to the masses via modern rock radio. The band was an easy target, and some of the criticism was justified, but Bush wasn’t any worse than a lot of other bands that weren’t skewered (they were just more popular), and despite the naysayers Sixteen Stone delivers mostly good songs. Not surprisingly, the album’s best songs are its excellent hits: the blazing rocker “Everything Zen,” the riff heavy “Machinehead,” the explosive power ballad “Comedown,” and the string laden “Glycerine,” which is relatively restrained and is all the more powerful for it. Rossdale is a charismatic if melodramatic singer with a big, throaty voice, and the band has mastered the fuzzy guitars and calm before the storm dynamics popularized by the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And though the album is rather one-dimensional and several of its songs are generic Gen-X styled hard rockers, Sixteen Stone goes beyond being a mere hits plus filler affair by virtue of its winningly raw and moody sound and several strong album tracks. In particular, “Little Things” (which also saw some radio time) rocks hard on its fuzzy power chords and piledriving rhythms, “Monkey” has razor-like riffs reminiscent of Big Black (though the song itself is much more melodic), and “Alien” was another atmospheric power ballad that reminds me of my beloved Catherine Wheel. Granted, at its worst Sixteen Stone makes me feel as if I’ve heard all this stuff done better before, but a lack of originality aside, Bush have learned their musical lessons well.
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