REVIEW ROUND-UP: Bush, Charlotte Wessels, My Kid Brother

The sunset silhouetting a valley


The Art Of Survival

It only feels like yesterday that Bush left everyone completely nonplussed with The Kingdom. Even as a band whose glory days are long behind them—it’s a metric of decades these days—that album basically added nothing of value to the conversation of what Bush have offer these days. Well, not entirely nothing; even if it was very much the work of a post-grunge relic trafficking mainly in inertia, that isn’t through unshakable adherence to the flavourless radio game, and The Art Of Survival is actually a fairly good next step to move further into that idea.

Well, ‘further’ in the relative terms allowed to a band like Bush anyway. The Art Of Survival is not particularly special, but in going for a hulking, churning approach to grunge and alt-metal, it’s a more imposing statement than Bush have made in some time. Corey Britz’s standout basslines return, but they’re on more equal footing with guitars that roar and writhe on Heavy Is The Ocean or May Your Love Be Pure. There’s more power than albums like this typically bring, and Bush’s more mediated approach to composition actually feels like a good basis to have it on. It’s easier to punch up and pile on the muscle mass to more deliberate work like this, which is why The Art Of Survival’s command of its heft feels so impressive.

Again, relativity matters most of all in situations like this; Bush’s emergence on this album is more akin to Nickelback’s semi-regular moments of power than anything properly game-changing. The fact it is still a Bush album also means it’s a bit too long by design, and comes with a few clangers in the writing that can be difficult to avoid (choice line: “Do the Kool-Aid twist and shout” which is the hook on Judas Is A Riot, for some reason). It’s not as bad as it sometimes can be though, largely thanks to Bush painting with a defter brush in terms of imagery, and actually bringing some convincing righteousness to the more politicised material. Even with Gavin Rossdale’s limited vocal range and the conspicuous filter that’s sometimes bolted on, he’s booming enough to stick when sheer presence is the name of the game.

It’s a wide target to hit, but Bush achieve that with keener power than they’ve had in years. Even on the slower cuts Creatures Of The Fire and 1000 Years, they play closer to simmering, shifting darkness than normal. It’s almost reminiscent of a poor man’s Chevelle, taking a traditionally radio-rock style into slightly more daring waters, albeit cutting away the progressive elements that give that band the edge overall. This is still solid though, especially for a late-in-the-day Bush album that could’ve easily been another serving a white, flavourless paste. In the grand scheme of exciting rock, it probably still is, to be fair, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt just this once, eh? • LN

For fans of: Silverchair, Chevelle, Stone Temple Pilots

‘The Art Of Survival’ by Bush is released on 7th October on BMG.

A drawing of Charlotte Wessels holding an orb

Charlotte Wessels

Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II

Charlotte Wessels’ Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II showcases another collection of powerful tracks with a number venturing further into heavier realms. Following on from Vol. I released last year, this smorgasbord of songs reveals a sense of growth across both Wessels’ creativity and production. With an eclectic mix from pop, electronic, to rock and metal, all with an underlying symphonic quality, the new album contains something for everyone.

Venus Rising is an incredibly effective album opener bringing high energy rhythms and a catchy chorus hook. In true Wessels fashion, there’s more to this track than meets the eye. Diving into a full-on electronics breakdown, Venus Rising unleashes an unexpected burst of power. Influences from the art and literature world introduce further layers into the tracks and can also be seen in the eerie The Phantom Touch with lyrical reference to the nineteenth-century short story The Yellow Wallpaper. Among the dark and gothic, Against All Odds featuring Timo Somers delivers a soulful and emotional, predominantly acoustic song.

The orchestration throughout the album beautifully ties all of the tracks together irrespective of genre and style variations, and also enhances the atmospheric quality of the music. The pop-rock-esque feel of The Final Roadtrip forms a rather stark contrast with dark and haunting mood of Good Dog, and yet they both clearly convey Charlotte’s distinctive edge. Toxic unleashes a fury of frustrations towards the ongoing inequality and attacks on human rights. With poignant lyrics sending a message loud and clear, musically Toxic carries these complex emotions through intense orchestration and metal instrumentation among which we see Wessels unleash her demonic harsh vocals. I Forget has an immersive impact, enveloping in ethereal and dream-like tones. Featuring Elianne Anemaat on cello, the airy textures produce a heavenly track. Concluding with Utopia, another deeply atmospheric track, there is a sense of hope that emerges despite the gloom unveiled throughout previous tracks on the album.

Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II presents a thrilling exploration of our world and existence through Charlotte Wessels’ art. Unafraid to delve into the very real horrors of current times, but also celebrate art and explore the brighter aspects of our lives. Musically, the album journeys to new lands of inspiration and experimentation. And, of course, Wessels’ vocal performances are truly compelling from the intimate and delicate, to the soaring and harsh, so much emotion is delivered through them. • HR

For fans of: Within Temptation, Floor Jansen, Visions Of Atlantis

‘Tales From Six Feet Under Vol. II’ by Charlotte Wessels is released on 7th October on Napalm Records.

A caricature of a blue-green devil with purple wings giggling and folding its arms

My Kid Brother


Remember crossover indie in the mid-2010s? When every act was either too stiff, too colourless or too bloated, but united under the common factor of having no power to speak of? Well, My Kid Brother clearly do, and they’re also clearly trying to change some perception of it. That’s the impression their self-titled EP in 2020 gave off, and with a full-length debut that gives them more room to play around, they still put out a few credible efforts.

It’s explains a lot when Twenty One Pilots sit as the clearest reference in their purview, the band who reigned the hardest within that original sound and for whom the cloying sterility was overtaken more readily by actual inspiration. Their range of variety is slightly truncated by My Kid Brother, but also augmented by extra guitars and a clear approach to pop-rock on the whole. At times the similarities can be too one-for-one, like how the fatter grind of Paper Houses is trying to be this album’s Jumpsuit, or the jauntier Shoulders that places more emphasis on Piano Whitman on—would you believe?—piano. Mostly though, there’s a fresher dimension added to Make You Make Believe or Spilt Salt, just through channelling a more traditional pop-rock aura to make their own colours and vibrancy jump off the page more.

At the same time, there’s not a lot done that’s really incredible, nor do My Kid Brother seem to acknowledge that with how uncertain as a body of work this can sometimes feel. The good moments still stand, but so do easy swings back around to antiseptic pop on Disco Days or blocky, buzzed-out guitar passages on Paper Houses and Roots. They feel like steps back to embrace the roots of washed-out, watered-down ‘indie’-pop rather than redress them, and there’s a lack of balance or stability for it overall. Add onto that production that’s similarly caught down that rabbit hole, and it’s hard to call this more than a small, notably inconsistent step into an overall brighter patch.

That’s not nothing though, and there’s something to be said for a band like My Kid Brother being comfortable in doing what they’re doing and still grazing success. The writing is never stellar but it doesn’t tip into screeching ponderousness either, and there’s enough of a hook in across the album to make it go down easily enough. It still feels lodged in the mid-section of My Kid Brother’s musical journey, in that it’s a bit unwieldy and lumpy as the band properly shape themselves up, but it’s not bad either. • LN

For fans of: Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At The Disco, Portugal. The Man

‘Happy.Mad.Weird.Sad’ by My Kid Brother is released on 7th October on Fearless Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)

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