Where art thou, Gavin Rossdale? It's been a long while since we have heard anything substantial from the former Bush frontman save for his disaster with Institute, a mess of electronica, ethereal alt-rock. Of course US audiences are familiar with Bush's first album 'Sixteen Stone,' released in 1994 and sold over 6 million albums. A couple more albums came out after but none could ever reach the heights of the first one. So where has he been since then?
Besides the flop, he has since become Mr. Gwen Stefani, thus being fodder for all those entertainment tabloids and shows and has sired a son and will be siring another kid pretty soon. So you find some free time and what do you come up with Gavin?
The resulting effort is 'Wanderlust,' Gavin's solo debut. The sound is a departure from the raw energy and subtle anger of Bush, perhaps arguably the best post-Nirvana outfit of all despite only achieving true success with one album. The sound is more understated, more Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell but in a few songs, you do get a little helping of Cobain and Bush.
The album begins with the dreamy and ethereal 'Can't Stop This World.' The lyrics are vintage Rossdale minus the subtle anger but the vocal effects placed on Rossdale's raspy vocal delivery are distracting to the listener and in a way bogs the song down. But despite that, the song does show that despite all that downtime between Bush and now (and Institute), Gavin still has plenty left the fuel tank musically. Due to the fact the album was acquired through the Rhapsody music service, tracks 'Frontline' and 'Forever You May Run' were not part of the package. 'The Skin I'm In' strips the bad vocal effects work on Rossdale and allows his rasp to be the focal point in the song.
'Drive' is one of few gems on the album with its lush and full sound and accompanied by a hynoptic chorus that will be ingrained into your consciousness long after listening to the album. 'Love Remains The Same' is another gem, with the Bush-like sound and Rossdale brings his entire heart for the world to see in the song. A rare tender moment for someone who put the the grunge in the post-grunge era.
The long worded song 'If You're Not With Us You Are Against Us' is easily the best track on the album and this is about as close as you will ever get to hearing Gavin as if he were still fronting the fading band he once put on top. This is an adrenaline-boosting track and Gavin is in his element totally in this track. 'Another Night In The Hills' steps up the tempo a bit, making it Gavin's attempt at more melodic, upbeat rock, something he has yet to master and it is very evident in this half-decent track. The album ends with the very unnecessary and cheesy outro, 'This Place Is On Fire.' The robotic effects is a very bad attempt at Radiohead.
Overall the album was a bit disappointing. More often times than not, he seems to be unable to bridge what he did with Institute with what he did with Bush and with where he sees himself now, a much older and more mature man with a kid and superstar wife. There are a few gems like 'Love Remains' and 'If You're Not' but songs like 'Can't Stop This World' and 'This Is Happiness' may be overshadowing his strengths and true talent, which gets shoved to the back in favor of attempting accessibility like his wife has. Instead of being his own man like he was with Bush, this version of Rossdale seems forced, almost homogenized. And whoever manned the vocal effects board in the studio during the recording of the album may need to find a new job too. The liberal use of vocal effects in the attempt to give Gavin an ethereal
effect actually worked against Gavin as he was at his best when the effects were mostly stripped off. That and a few messes of a song will drag the rating overall down. This would be a cinch for at least 4.0 if there were more songs like the gems described. If he can hone in on what he does on songs like 'Drive' and 'Love Remains', he may truly relaunch himself out there in the music consciousness. If he brings forward another uneven effort like this, then we may have lost him in the music world.
Release Date: June 3, 2008
My rating: 3.2 out of 5
Alan Ho is the chief head at Musiqtone.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.