There’s a scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt splashes lye on Edward Norton’s hand, then holds him down, forcing him to confront the excruciating burn with all his senses focused. Listening to The Science of Things, the latest album from grunge holdovers Bush, brought that scene to mind. After four spins, I’d endured more than 200 minutes of dreary mid-tempo guitar rock. Four listens, and I can recall just two of 12 songs: ”The Chemicals Between Us,” with its programmed drum track and vaguely memorable chorus, and ”Letting the Cables Sleep,” which is studiously understated. You know, like ”Glycerine.” Otherwise, Science is joyless and tuneless.
There’s another scene in Fight Club where Norton strolls through his sterile apartment and notes all his impersonal IKEA items. Listening to No. 4, the latest from grunge holdovers Stone Temple Pilots, brought that scene to mind. Much of 4 sounds like it comes from a catalog: It’s generic and phoned in. If Ikea made easy-assembly hard-rock songs, they’d sound like the dour ”Down.” If they made fake Jane’s Addiction tunes, they’d sound like the dated ”No Way Out.” And if they made lugubrious Jim Morrison rip-offs, they’d sound like the pretentious ”Atlanta.”
To be fair, not everything here is that prefab. ”Sex & Violence” and ”Pruno” are hardly original (there’s plenty of Bowie in both), but they’re well-crafted songs that remind you why STP had all those hits in the first place. Still, most of 4 is unexciting and obvious — and desperately in need of the Fight Club’s punch. Science: D No. 4: C