Their first two albums have sold a combined total exceeding ten million copies. They've packed arenas around the world, ranking as one of the most successful touring acts of the '90s. Their songs fill radio airwaves, their videos dominate MTV playlists, and their faces grace the covers of both mainstream and industry publications. Yet for all their considerable accomplishments, Bush still too often receives back-of-the-hand treatment from taste makers and trend shakers both here and abroad.
Band vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale can smile knowingly over such a situation, and he can shrug his shoulders in mock indifference. However, it's no secret that deep inside his artistic soul Bush's lack of critical support has begun to rankle the normally unflappable Mr. Rossdale. He won't come right out and admit it, and certainly the band's incredible commercial success has done much to dampen any impact that the group's critical limitations may present. But there seems to be little question that at this critical juncture of their career, as their third disc, Deconstucted, continues to climb towards platinum paradise, Rossdale and bandmates Nigel Pulsford, Robin Goodridge, and Dave Parsons may well be willing to trade a fraction of their astonishing sales success for a healthier dose of critical acceptance.
"I think it's human nature to want people to like what you do," Rossdale said. "But we are more interested in having our fans enjoy our music than in focusing too much of our attention on the media. The critics were never particularly supportive of us, yet we've managed to succeed. They compared us to Nirvana. They compared us to Def Leppard. Too few ever seemed to actually listen to what we were doing."
Despite their lack of critical acclaim, Bush have unquestionably left what may well turn out to be a permanent mark on the '90s music scene. Perhaps no other recent European hard rock unit has been able to conquer the often-stringet, cross-cultural, over-politicized, highly-unpredictable bounds of the rock world with the aplomb of this London-based band. At a time when the hard rock form itself has increasingly been looked down upon with growing distain, and the few state-side acts that have managed to break through tend to be hipper-then-thou, angst-filled roff merchants, Bush proved that they had the style, attitude and sound needed to break through to a wide-ranging international audience.
Ironically, as the band's world-wide success has continued to expand at an almost exponential pace, they continue to struggle at home. There, the fickle British rock crowd often seems too fixated by the quirky elements of "electronica" or the pathetic sounds of Spice Girl-style pop to even give Bush and their ilk the time of day. But Rossdale and Co. seem convinced that the tastes of the world's rock market are about to change--and it will be a positive change for everyone who likes their rock solid and their music loud. It may not happen tomorrow, it may not even happen next month, but the members of Bush fervently believe that rock and roll is still very much alive and well--even if they want no credit for helping to revitalize the form's flagging fortunes.
"Every time a band comes along and sells a few records, they're made out as some sort of saviors," Goodridge said. "I think that may well be the last thing we should be called. We're just musicians who play music. That's really all there is. We understand that with a little success comes other things--including media scrutiny of both our personal and professional lives--but that should never take the focus away from the music. We never had any intention of trying to make any sort of statement concerning the health of the European music scene. All we ever wanted to do was make a statement about the health of this band."
Unquestionably the health of Bush in early 1998 seems to be nearly picture-perfect. With Deconstructed selling well, and the group's video for "Mouth"(which was also featured in the soundtrack for the movie An American Werewolf in Paris) emerging as one of their most popular clips ever, it seems that the group currently enjoys an almost pervasive presence on the music world. Somewhat strangely, just as all this "action" is taking place, the band members themselves have chosen to remain far away from the scene, taking a well deserved break from the rigors of the rock and roll lifestyle. How long this vacation will last is still anyone's guess, but best estimates concerning when Bush might return to the work place now point towards the fall as the most logical starting point.
If the band were to write material through the summer, then record in the fall, they'd be well prepared to have their all-important next disc ready to go for the '98 Christmas season. Than they could return to the tour trail in early '99 and keep the Bush rock and roll express careening along in high gear right through to the Millennium. While the band members shake their heads knowingly when such a schedule is presented to them, they're all quick to state that their main goal at the moment is to get as far away from tour schedules, recording deadlines and time restrictions as they can. It's time for Bush to bask in the glory of their success...at least for a little while. They know that critics may never love them, and they've come to accept the notion that fans abck home in England may never fully embrace them. But for the moment, Bush can live with all that. They're rich, they're famous and they're content. Not bad for a bunch of blokes who just four years ago were trying to make enough money from their music to give up their day jobs.
"That's true," Parsons said. "We certainly have come a long way. It's really hard for me to believe that so much has happened in a relatively short period of time. It seems like only yesterday that the first album
was about to come out. So much has happened to us since then. We held some of the strangest jobs in the world while we waited for the band to break. We painted houses, worked in a take-out sushi restaurant and were
short order cooks. Believe it when I tell you that being in a successful band is a lot more fun that any of that!"