Distort Yourself

Studio Album by released in 2005

Distort Yourself review

Despite selling bucketloads in the US, Gavin Rossdale's Bush never captured the imagination of his fellow Brits. Maybe that's because they were so blatantly influenced by the Seattle grunge scene, something the UK reacted against with Britpop. Now that v are 'on ice', Gavin's formed Institute, a new hard rockin' Anglo-American quartet to play with. When any artist is successful as a part of one unit and then later ventures out in another unit, it's impossible for one not to draw comparisons between the two. Think A Perfect Circle/Tool, think Audioslave/Soundgarden/Rage Against the Machine, and now one can think of Gavin Rossdale's new band and his old band. For fans of Bush, you will find the skeleton of that band within Institute, but Rossdale has done some tweaking, often taking things in a new, experimental and heavier direction. Distort Yourself may well be Mr. Gwen Stefani's best album since 1994's breakthrough Sixteen Stone. Dispensing with the overly-affected attempts at credibility that characterized Razorblade Suitcase; or the flirtation with electronica that occasionally worked wonders on Bush's later efforts; it heads back to no-nonsense, in-your-face yet melodically memorable territory, but adds noticeably more aggression into the mix courtesy of Helmet men Page Hamilton and Chris Traynor on production and guitar duties, respectively.

Bullet-Proof Skin is a fine opener, with a chunky, insistent guitar riff holding things together in preparation for an equally substantial but friendly chorus. The following number, When Animals Attack, is even better with a high-pitched, careering guitar line to start, which then cleverly takes a back seat during the verses in order for the bass to lead the charge. It's an under-utilized trick in rock music but one that Institute have got down to a fine art. From here on there is consistent quality, with highlights including Come On Over (where a spacious, shoegazing intro gives way to very Helmet-like, slowed-down riffing); Seventh Wave (featuring a stop-start rhythm and machinery-like guitar effects); and Save The Robots (which anthemically builds from swathes of oceansize guitar).

Try as you may, it's hard not to compare Institute to Bush, since it's not only from the same writer/guitarist/singer, but because Rossdale's aesthetic has not changed over the last ten years; he remains doggedly faithful to grunge-inspired hard rock. He may not have changed his perspective, but changing his band and hiring a new, sympathetic producer has indeed slapped a fresh coat of paint on his signature sound, so Distort Yourself sounds livelier than anything he's done since Razorblade Suitcase. Of immediate notice is that Distort Yourself seems like the work of a collaboration more than it does of a dictator. In Bush, it seemed like whatever Rossdale said was law, but here the other instruments have more of a role. Institute makes music that is heavy enough to appeal to those who like aggression through their headphones, yet is sufficiently tuneful for said listeners to sing-along at the same time. It's not certain if a "next level" is achieved, but Distort Yourself is definitely worth a spin, especially for those who don't just want Bush Vol. 2.