“When will you know if the song’s been sung?” Gavin Rossdale sings obliviously on The Kingdom’s “Quicksand.” It’s a question he apparently didn’t take too seriously when writing that tune or the other 11 modern warhorses on the long-running band’s eighth album, which trudge through the same monochromatic grunge he first peddled a quarter of a century ago.
As with the Bush of yore, Rossdale’s pained, scruffy vocals remain the focus throughout the record but too often it’s sound and fury amounting to nothing. “Bullet Holes,” musically, rips off U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” with its echoy blues guitar riffs, seething bass, and Rossdale’s ravings about America in the intro, but it quickly descends into goopy, ham-fisted generic punk that often sounds as empty as its title. When the band goes for something lighter on the “Glycerine”-like ballad “Undone,” Rossdale’s voice becomes a distraction when it overpowers the group’s wooshy guitar textures. But mostly Bush’s biggest sin is going back to the same well again and again hoping to find something new, something vital but coming up emptyhanded — some “Machinehead”-style vocal squall on “Falling Away,” a bit of loud-quiet-loud “Comedown” drama on “Send in the Clowns,” a little no-sex-in-your-violence lyrical head scratchers throughout (“What do you see, what’s your pollution?” Rossdale asks on “Blood River,” again not wanting the answer we’re all thinking). It’s the little things that kill.
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