(19 Nov 1996, Trauma/Interscope)
When I checked the list of 20-year-old albums earlier this year, Bush’s sophomore album Razorblade Suitcase seemed like a great one to do a Platinum Anniversary Albums review on. I remember really liking it when it came out and it’s remained in my collection for most of those two decades. It was produced by Steve Albini, who recorded hundreds of underground punk albums as well as Nirvana’s In Utero. But after I revisited the album the idea seemed… well… not as great.
I don’t want to give the impression that Razorblade Suitcase is a bad album. It’s not bad by any means. It’s just not exceptionally good.
I’m guessing most people still remember the singles. “Swallowed” was a reasonably big hit. It’s not a bad tune. I really like the first verse being just guitar and vocals before the chorus kicks in to rock out, but when the second verse is stripped down to bass and vocals it comes off as jarring. It strikes me as a song that could have been great with a little more consistency.
I remember “Mouth” from the film An American Werewolf in Paris. (or was it London? I never actually saw the movie.) Unfortunately, that was a remixed version of the track. On this album it’s stripped down to it’s bare bones and quite underwhelming after hearing the other version. Do you remember the single “Cold Contagious”? You’re forgiven if you don’t. I honestly can’t think of anything to say about it one way or another.
My favorite track on the album was always “Greedy Fly.” Whether it was because of the awesome video or the twinkling guitar lines I can’t say. The funny thing is that for as much as I dislike the everything-but-the-bass-cutting-out effect in “Swallowed,” I love it here. The stop/start quality of that heavy chorus riff gets me every time. This is one of those songs I can listen to over and over and never get sick of.
The rest of the album is predominantly forgettable. This isn’t like Sixteen Stone where you’re going to want to play it over and over again because the songs get stuck in your head. It’s more like you’ll want to play it several times because you can’t remember if you liked it. The opener “Personal Holloway” is a good rocker to kick things off, but the momentum doesn’t really continue. “Straight No Chaser” and “Bonedriven” try to recapture the magic of “Glycerine” with just Gavin Rossdale accompanied by a cello, but neither really comes close.
Sure, there’s great design and a lot of potential here, but this is the definition of a sophomore slump. I give them credit for branching out, taking risks and trying something new (and this album sold way more copies than anything I’ve ever put out); but this is one of those unhappy cases where artistic integrity didn’t pay off.