When Institute dropped their debut album Distort Yourself on Sept. 13, 2005 out-of-the-loop Bush fans probably thought Gavin Rossdale got the gang back together again and released a surprise album.
Arguably, Distort Yourself functioned as a new Bush album but in the record books (pun intended) it belongs to Institute as the band’s first and only album. Institute was a side project of sorts, or perhaps the hopeful resurrection of Gavin Rossdale as Bush broke up in 2002 leaving the frontman without a hits machine.
Institute resumed Rossdale’s mic and guitar duties and brought along current Bush guitarist Chris Traynor as well as Cache Tolman on bass and Charlie Walker on drums. Distort Yourself didn’t do all that well hitting #81 on the charts, far below that of Bush’s previous album Golden State that reached #22, but the latter an album that ultimately helped end the band’s initial run after just four albums. Institute was an unknown at the time and unless your pulse was on all things Rossdale you probably never heard of Distort Yourself.
Rossdale has the distinct privilege of a unique vocal tone that pretty much identifies him no matter who he sings with thus Institute sounds little different than Bush. The band opened for U2 but ultimately disbanded in 2006 before Rossdale tried his prowess as a solo artist and finally did get half the gang back together in 2010 as Traynor who joined Bush in 2002 after original guitarist Nigel Pulsford retired joined for the new collaboration and Robin Goodridge returned behind the kit but left in 2019.
All that to say, a good thing as Bush released the 2020 Album of the Year in The Kingdom (at least in terms of this website) and have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late. None of which helps Institute’s cause to get some of their tracks airplay or even the live treatment.
Institute Distort Yourself Album Review
You cannot dismiss the Bush catalogue when listening to Institute. Distort Yourself sounds a little different than Golden State, but not much, akin perhaps to the natural direction Bush might have taken, dropping a darker almost industrial rock production to Bush’s fourth album in favor of a less gloomy structure with more melody but retaining the hard-edged approach to song writing. So in many respects, Distort Yourself works as the debut album for a new band fronted by the distinct sounding singer of a previous band looking to go a different direction.
Taken on its own Distort Yourself offers some moments of clarity but gets mired in somewhat uninspiring slower tracks that impede the last half of the album.
“Bulletproof Skin” (not to be confused with “Bullet Holes” off The Kingdom) produces a solid rocker set up as a hard hitting single dominated by heavy guitar chords. “When Animals Attack” features rich bass guitar that provides a thumping beat. Funny, this could actually be the background song to a video showing when animals attack but pretty sure he’s not talking about the four-legged creatures with these lyrics: “She took my mental bones / She took my soul and everything / You know how bad things get.”
The sluggish “Come on Over” has little direction redeemed some by “Information Age” a heavy piece that takes a while to settle with a strong melody and chorus but overall takes a few spins to appreciate. A cool bass opens “Wasteland” which sounds like a Bush song and once Gavin chimes in, you have yourself a new Bush song if unfamiliar with this album. A ballad for the most part – which Rossdale does have experience and expertise with – before the hearty guitars ring in, then back to a methodical application to the verse. But you’ve reached the pinnacle of the album at this point as just a few songs highlight the second half.
The pretty generic “Boom Box” offers a good bass but mostly builds a momentum for a chorus that doesn’t really deliver. Lots going on for “Seventh Wave” and “The Heat of Your Love” as both on the surface work as mediocre deep album cuts but given a few listens show versatility and harmonic connections.
Some melodic high notes on the slower “Ambulances” that has moments, even has promise, but unfortunately needs a bit more direction to bring this one to life. “Secrets and Lies” offers a pretty sleepy track that drifts off probably before you do followed by another slow and aimless piece in “Mountains” before Distort Yourself closes in a melodramatic whimper on “Save the Robots.”
Institute doesn’t really stray from the Bush formula using heavy guitar chords and persistent bass, and ultimately Distort Yourself succeeds as a hard rock album leaving the more pop elements of previous Bush albums behind.
No reason exists though for a band name change other than perhaps out of deference to the other original three members or maybe Rossdale thought a complete redo might bring forth another Sixteen Stone. Indeed, several overlooked songs indicate a fresh approach but Distort Yourself ultimately finishes where Golden State left off.
Debut Album Grade: B
Overall Album Grade: B-
Institute Distort Yourself Songs:
- Bulletproof Skin
- When Animals Attack
- Come on Over
- Information Age
- Boom Box
- Seventh Wave
- The Heat of Your Love
- Secrets and Lies
- Save the Robots