Record Machine: “Machinehead” by Bush

This 10 inch limited edition single from Bush is one of the first records I bought on my own, even though I didn’t own a record player at the time. There are three songs on it, and the amount I paid shook out to be roughly four bucks per song. Did I care? Of course not. The hopeless completist within me felt it was meant to be.

Bush - Machinehead single, No. 1442

Bush were one of the first bands that became my One True Loves, so how could I resist a single that was numbered and that had sat languishing in the record shop for years? I’d been in the shop multiple times to buy posters and somehow talked myself out of buying the single until early 2002.

If one was paying attention to popular music even just a little bit during the mid-90s, one most certainly heard “Machinehead” by Bush, one of five singles from Sixteen Stone. It was inescapable, though I admit I didn’t come around to the band until their second album (and my favorite of theirs), Razorblade Suitcase. Still, the first album’s omnipresence made it easy to catch up on all the videos, and therefore let my teenage heart go a’pitter-pat over Gavin Rossdale.

Deaf, dumb, and thirty, starting to deserve this
Leaning on my conscience wall
Blood is like wine, unconscious all the time
If I had it all again I’d change it all

It took young-me awhile to realize that in the middle of the song, he quotes from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” — “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical.” Young-me was not up on her Beat poetry.

For some reason, the version of “Comedown” on this single is called “acoustic,” but it has electric guitars. More accurately, it’s a stripped down version with strings.

Sleep the day, let it fade
Who was there to take your place

This version also makes me miss Nigel Pulsford’s presence in the band. I feel like he made Bush better. He was the better guitar player, I liked his backing vocals, and I think he would have stuck around if Gavin had been open to letting him write a few songs on their albums. Alas.

The one true B-side on the single is “Solomon’s Bones,” which is at times sparse-sounding, when it then turns up the guitar fuzz in that satisfying ’90s way.

Might as well get saved by someone…
There is no doubt

It points to the sound utilized on Razorblade Suitcase, which employed Mr. ’90s Producer Himself, Steve Albini. I wouldn’t say this is Bush’s strongest B-side — I lean towards “Bubbles” or “Broken TV” there — but I still dig the song.

I miss this version of Bush.

The newest incarnation of the band — Gavin Rossdale, original drummer Robin Goodridge, Nigel-replacement Chris Traynor, and rando bassist I don’t even care about named Corey Britz — is so goddamn boring. When I first heard Bush were reforming, I was excited. Gavin’s solo album was mediocre at best, and that’s saying it as an indulgent person riding a wave of nostalgia. His other band, Institute, had one or two okay songs. I bought the albums to support “the cause,” so to speak. I thought Bush coming back together would harken back to at least the Golden State album sound. I didn’t think Nigel would come back, but maybe Dave Parsons. Maybe? Could it really happen?

Alas, alas.

So now, even though I see the odd blip on Twitter about the band, I mostly pretend they no longer exist. I stick to the albums from 2001 and before. It’s less disappointing that way. I doubt I am the only one who willingly employs a similar cultural blindness.

Bush - Machinehead single (2)

Are there bands out there like that for you? Let me know in the comments.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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