Black and White Rainbows, the seventh full-length from Bush, arrived a year after frontman Gavin Rossdale's divorce from Gwen Stefani. The emotional fallout permeates the album, as Rossdale processes his feelings with declarations like "Still got mad love for you baby" and "I will always be yours." Surprisingly, it's not a completely dour-sounding affair. Opting to focus on positivity and the big picture, Rossdale -- 51 and the father of four at the time of release -- managed to craft a collection of adult contemporary hard rock that is fittingly mature and somewhat optimistic (radio-friendly single "Mad Love" is a prime example). Rainbows features some of the brightest songs in the Bush catalog -- with less grit and generic retread than the previous two Bush 2.0 albums -- and is almost as energetic and catchy as 2001's underrated Golden State, the last from Bush 1.0 before their 2002 dissolution. Even when Rossdale delivers emo-esque lines like "I'm in a danger zone/Never did feel so alone," the music -- provided by guitarist Chris Traynor, bassist Corey Britz, and founding drummer Robin Goodridge -- betrays the darkness with propulsive rhythm, polished production, and hopeful energy. The best of these numbers includes the yearning "Lost in You," a sweeping orchestra-backed standout that features the best heartbreak lyrics on Rainbows, and the soaring "The Beat of Your Heart," which utilizes sparkly synths and a rousing gang chorus. Adding to the brightness, singer/songwriter Greta Karen provides a welcome female presence on much of the album with her subtle backing vocals. Sixteen Stone nostalgists might be turned off by this fresh direction, but there are enough hints of their early sound to satiate. The spirits of the past appear in highlights like the heavy "Water," the distortion-laden "Ravens," the crunchy "Nurse," and the funky "Dystopia." Those latter tracks are the biggest rockers on Rainbows, welcome reminders of the band's early sound. Elsewhere, Rainbows features a trio of songs that stick out in the Bush catalog for their attempts at variety. "Toma Mi Corazón" includes the odd inclusion of Spanish lyrics, but the song works so well that it doesn't feel forced. However, in a couple instances, Rossdale reaches for U2-sized thematic grandiosity and the results aren't as forgiving. While the pro-Earth message on "Sky Turns Day Glo" is welcome, lyrics like "the polar bears are weeping" land with such an awkward thud that it borders precariously close to Michael Jackson's "Earth Song" laments about elephants and crying whales. Album closer "People at War" is another well-meaning statement, this time addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. However, for all its intent, it unfortunately lacks power and any real message. Overall, Black and White Rainbows is an interesting piece of the Bush discography, hinting at a late-era trajectory shift and a reinvigorated spirit for Rossdale and company. While he nurses fresh wounds that have stripped his world of color, at the very least he can still see beauty and hope through the gloom.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung