POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Bush Gets Back to English Sound on Tour

A funny thing happened to Bush on its way to fame in America--it got more English. At least the band sounded a bit more English in Sunday's first of three nights at the Mayan Theatre than on last year's "Sixteen Stone" debut album.

But then, that might have simply been a matter of singer Gavin Rossdale's gruff accent being more pronounced. The music is still much closer to American grunge than to the distinctly British rock crop led by Elastica, Blur and Oasis. Of course, with 1.7 million albums sold Stateside, Bush is far more successful here than its country-mate contemporaries.

So what is Bush doing with that fame? That wasn't quite so pronounced. Crisscrossing America for the past months seems to have toughened the quartet's sound and directed it a little away from the Nirvana/Pearl Jam comparisons that have dogged it. But several new songs didn't reveal much new, save for one which Rossdale introduced as being about "money-grubbers"--a common topic for bands dealing with sudden fame.

Basically what came across was a group with two strengths--guitarist Nigel Pulsford's impressive array of sonics and Rossdale's hunkish gaze. You can guess which drew squeals from the fans.

Second-billed Hum, an Illinois quartet, fits somewhere between Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, but nothing in its music was as intriguing as the taped whale songs and cat's meows used before the set and between some songs. Texas band the Toadies' opening set approached industrial intensity at times, but the songwriting lacked that little something to sustain interest.

* Bush plays tonight at the Mayan Theatre, 1038 S. Hill St., 8 p.m. $22. (213) 746-4287.

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