— -- intro: This week, '90s alt-rock group Bush releases its seventh album; The Shins release their first album in five years; The Magnetic Fields release a 50-song collection in honor of leader Stephin Merritt’s 50th birthday; British folk singer Laura Marling delivers an entrancing new album; defining anti-folk singer Cindy Lee Berryhill returns after a 10-year absence; and Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or” gets an expanded and remastered edition.
quicklist: 1title: Bush’s “Black and White Rainbows” ****text: Since Bush re-formed to release “A Sea of Memories,” in 2011, the group has shown a newfound sense of determination. That album and its 2014 follow-up, “Man on the Run” both hold up well within the group’s discography. Now Bush's seventh album, “Black and White Rainbows,” stands as one of the most melodic albums the group has ever released. This album finds Gavin Rossdale handling both songwriting and production duties, displaying his obvious sense of purpose. It’s an album with pop appeal that doesn’t sell out or betray the group’s grunge-era legacy.
Sure, sometimes his lyrics let him down, like on the opener, “Mad Love,” with its chorus, “Still got mad love for you baby,” or on the well-meaning but heavy-handed, environmental-themed “Sky Turns Day-Glo.” But then you hear a perfect song like “Water,” which is everything a Bush song should be at this point. “Nurse,” also has a vintage Bush feel.
If you are a fan of the band’s more electronic side that they showcased on their third studio album, “The Science of Things,” you’ll enjoy “Ray of Light” or a number of other songs here, as well. This 15-track set is perhaps the most sonically diverse albums of the band’s career. It is almost as if the group set off to focus on all of their truest strengths. It is too bad alt-rock radio no longer really exists on a large scale. This album would be stacked with ace-level singles.
If you are one of those people who derides the band for aping Nirvana, I would say that the comparison has rarely really stood up, with the brief exception of their Steve Albini-assisted “In Utero,”-style, awkward posturing on “Razorblade Suitcase.” By now, Bush has long been its own band. “Black and White Rainbows” fully cements the troup's comeback. While in the past Rossdale has often been known to bark out lines in a lyrical list, here he really sings and lets the songs soar. This is a remarkably cohesive set.
“Water” As I said above, this song is truly perfect. It’s a slow-burning ballad with dark undertones that will have you hitting the repeat button. It’s a commanding and compelling song.
“Nurse” Had this song been released in the '90s, it would have been a “modern-rock” staple, with its chorus of “I have fallen into you. / I need a nurse to get me through.”
“People at War” This powerful, echo-drenched closer is the closest this album gets to a true pop song, with its clean, synth-heavy production and slight vocal effects, but it also sounds like a possible pop-crossover hit. The guitars are turned down until the song’s bridge when they slowly make their presence known.