They may have spent their entire career shrugging off accusations of being Nirvana ripoffs, but even if the critics never jumped on board with Bush’s brand of grunge rock, millions of fans certainly have. Although they’ve never made themselves at home in the charts in their native UK, their success in the US made them of the biggest rock bands of the 1990s. To date, they’ve sold over 20 million albums worldwide. Here, we take a look back at their highs and lows as we rank all 8 Bush albums from worst to best.
8. The Kingdom
2020’s The Kingdom has plenty of riffs, tons of hooks, and enough rasp from Gavin Rossdale to please the fans. But 25 years into their career, the music is just a little too familiar and a little too samey to please anyone who isn’t already a fan of their particular brand of grunge.
7. Black and White Rainbows
Black and White Rainbows, the band’s seventh album, dishes up another helping of buffed-up, stadium-ready grunge… which is fine if you like that kind of thing, but if you were hoping for something with a little grit or edge, don’t hold your breath. Released in March 2017, it failed to break into the Billboard 200, but made it to number 21 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
6. The Sea Of Memories
In 2011, Bush returned with their first studio album in a decade, The Sea Of Memories. Clearly, their time away hadn’t dulled their fans’ appetite for new material, and the album performed reasonably well commercially, reaching number 18 on the US Billboard 200 and spawning a string of top ten singles. Critically, it was a slightly different story, with some reviewers praising tracks like The Sound of Winter, She’s a Stallion, and Stand Up, and others claiming that the album added precisely zero to the band’s catalog. Ultimately, if you were already a fan of Bush before The Sea Of Memories, you’ll find it an enjoyable record. If you weren’t, or have always been on the fence, this isn’t the album that’s going to change your mind.
5. Man on the Run
In 2014, Bush marked the 20th anniversary of their debut, Sixteen Stone, with Man on the Run. Thanks to producers Nick Raskulinecz and Jay Baumgardner, the band’s sound has been treated to a modern makeover, dragging it kicking and screaming out of the 1990s with plenty of burbling electronics, drums loops, and studio gloss. It’s all a bit too much, with the busy production threatening to swamp the songs at times. But still, there’s a lot to like here, with strong melodies and enough catchy hooks to reel in the fans.
4. The Science Of Things
After enjoying huge success with their first two records, hopes were riding high for Bush’s third album, The Science Of Things. Released in October 1999, it did well from a commercial perspective (if not quite so well as its predecessors), reaching number eleven on the US Billboard 200 and certifying platinum in the US. Sonically, it represents a slight departure from Bush’s standard fare, with a scattering of electronica and mechanized drum loops bolstering the usual hard rock. Where the experiments work (as they do on the sensational opening track Warm Machine, the raw, jagged single The Chemicals Between Us, and the bone-crunching English Fire), the results are phenomenal. But as NME notes, the remaining tracks are staggeringly unimaginative modern-rock-by-numbers that might please fans of the band’s MTV friendly, Nirvana-like material, but will do little to convince anyone else.
3. Razorblade Suitcase
Two years after releasing their multi-platinum selling debut, Bush continued their white-hot streak with Razorblade Suitcase. Commercially, it reached even greater heights than its predecessor, selling over a quarter of a million copies during its first week in the US and debuting at number 1 on the Billboard 200. Like their debut, the sound is remarkably similar to Nirvana’s, leading Entertainment Weekly to say it could have easily have been the record Nirvana never made. But while it may be derivative, it’s also distinctive, with a raw power and exhilarating intensity that set it apart from the bland alt-rock populating the charts at the time. Standout tracks worth revisiting include Swallowed and Bonedriven.
2. Golden State
In October 2001, Bush dropped their fourth studio album and their last before an extended ten-year hiatus. Described by Gavin Rossdale as “a real rock record” with an “empowering and uplifting” sound, Golden State aimed to bring the band full circle back to their 1994 debut, Sixteen Stone. In many ways, it achieved its goal. Although there’s nothing quite so immediately anthemic on its setlist as Comedown or Glycerine, Rossdale’s rasp is as seductive as ever, while the songs themselves have enough crunching grunge riffs and big hooks to give fans plenty to chew on. A cohesive, slightly retro-sounding album that barely falters throughout its entire 12 song set, it might not have achieved the platinum-selling success of its predecessors, but it’s every bit as good as them.
1. Sixteen Stone
Bush were a success straight out of the gate. They may have been dismissed in some quarters as Nirvana wannabees, but there were worse bands to approximate in 1994 than Nirvana, particularly for up-and-coming bands desperate to make an impression on the charts. Sixteen Stone made more than an impression, it made an almighty dent, peaking at number four on the US Billboard 200 and spawning a string of hit singles, including a pair of No.1s with Comedown and Glycerine. Even Bush’s biggest fans wouldn’t call the album original, but while it might follow the template already set by Pearl Jam, Nirvana, et al to the letter, it does it with such expert pop craftsmanship, it’s hard to care. Special mention should also be made of the meticulous production of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, two icons of early-’80s British pop who more than earn their paychecks here.