Forgotten Gems #2: Bush – ‘Swallowed’

Grunge. The last great bastion of what punk had originally intended? Quite possibly. Where in the world, then, does a band like Bush fit in with it? Technically over before they started – with the passing of poster boy Kurt Cobain reasonably being a given as the end of the movement – grunge was a rock movement built on the same principles as punk, i.e. it was a reaction to the over-the-top guitar neck wanking and cheesy synths of its predecessor, hair metal (it’s funny how things revolve), as punk was with prog. So what happens when a band come along once the party is over and try to carry it on? Well, with punk, you get The Undertones.


Bush were a very similar beast to Fergal Sharkey’s band of merry Derry men, mainly in that they bred in some of the sonic aspects that made those before them sound the way they did and thus cause a stir (waves of overdrive and distortion, ‘Dumb’-like vocals) but, also went for a sound which was a bit diluted compared to the real thing.  Think of how analogous The Undertones’ sound is to the one achieved by Sandy Pearlman on The Clash’s second effort, Give ’em Enough Rope, (which the band and many of their fans were unhappy with, but which I must say doesn’t bother me too much): polished, clean punk with a light touch as opposed to the full throttle roughness of the Londoners’ first (better, I admit) effort. Equally, Bush were a wholly more clean cut version of Nirvana (I would say ‘radio friendly’, but Nirvana’s melodies were so strong that to describe them as not would be wrong).

The Undertones

Anyway, ‘Swallowed’, along with probably ‘Glycerine’, gave Bush something other notable British guitar bands of the time wanted to get: success in the USA. It is not overly-crazy to say that, towards the end of the ’90s,  Bush were a big deal in America. Indeed, their popularity was so high that ‘Swallowed’ reached number 27 in the Hot 100 Billboard chart and number 1 in the Billboard Modern Rock with ‘Glycerine’ performing similarly well (28 and 1 respectively).

It is strange, then, that ‘Swallowed’ has become somewhat of a forgotten track, especially given how good it is. Working on the quiet verse, loud chorus dynamic(s) that served Nirvana so well (and Pixies before them) its harmonic movement is simple enough, in the key of G#, but what really drives the song forward is its melodic touch. The chorus is as catchy as any pop number; a simple, singalong line over distorted rhythm guitar and pounding drums that never fails to get me out of my seat and screaming along.

Bush – Swallowed

‘Swallowed’ is a great number and it’s a bloody shame that it’s not as well remembered as other ’90s classics like Ocean Colour Scene’s ‘The Day we Caught the Train’ as it is certainly as good. Maybe it could be the ‘Teenage Kicks’ for the very blank generation that I grew up in.


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