CD Review: Gavin Rossdale, Institute prove to be endearing on debut album

Photo-friendly Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale has been more famous in recent years for his marriage to pop queen Gwen Stefani than for his picture-perfect reign at the top of the alt-rock movement in the mid-’90s. Once a poster child for the revival in Brit rock, Rossdale and his Bush bandmates were the hard-edged alternative to bands like Oasis and Blur.

Gone are the days of rock superstardom—and, possibly, of Rossdale’s former band altogether. But, like many artists on the flip side of their fame, he refuses to fade into the background quietly. Rossdale has returned to the musical landscape (albeit in a much smaller fashion) with Institute, an outfit that is essentially a Rossdale solo project with backing musicians.

Written almost exclusively by Rossdale, Institute’s first effort, Distort Yourself, is by no means a big departure from precedents set during his time in Bush. The guitar parts are still hard and deliberate, coupled with frequent but not unexpected changes in tempo. Highlights on the 12-song album include the first single “Bulletproof Skin” and “Wasteland,” a blistering track that could at once inspire a moshpit and eyes-closed meditation.

Institute—like Bush—has its strength in consistent themes of loss, gratitude and regret. Rossdale’s lyrics are far from poetic, but his effective use of metaphor and blurred wordplay are endearing, even to casual listeners. Will Distort Yourself rekindle the mid-’90s post-grunge flame? Not likely. But Institute’s brand of rock is one that still deserves recognition in a popular music world that no longer wants to acknowledge what happened a decade ago.

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2005, issue

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