The working title of Gavin Rossdale’s first solo offering, “WANDERlust,” out June 3, should have been “Family Values 101.”
The last time Rossdale had a hit record, back when he was the lead singer of alterna-grunge British band Bush, the Internet was still a relatively new concept, MTV still played music videos and “the other” Clinton was in the midst of his second term as president.
Needless to say, times have changed — and, if the lyrics on “WANDERlust” are any indication, so has Rossdale’s perspective on music, love and personal happiness. The singer who once growled about “the little things that kill” now finds himself “Feelin’ invincible / This moment’s mine,” according to ballad “Beauty in the Beast.”
The hordes of teenage girls who swooned over Rossdale in the late â€˜90s (myself included) will be relieved to know that the 40-year-old’s signature raspy voice is still intact throughout “WANDERlust,” But it’s singing a much happier tune.
After the members of Bush parted ways in 2002, Rossdale flew under the radar musically, forming the short-lived group Institute, which released a record in 2005. His personal life, on the other hand, became a different story. Since marrying Gwen Stefani in 2002, Rossdale has become a tabloid staple, with photos of the couple and their son Kingston, born in 2006, regularly appearing in the pages of celebrity gossip magazines and on entertainment news shows. (Stefani is expected to give birth to the couple’s second child later this year).
It’s obvious, however, that Rossdale has adapted nicely to domestic life. Lyrically, “WANDERlust” is a collection of mostly love songs, presumably written with Stefani in mind. It’s poppier than anything Rossdale ever released as a member of Bush, and occasionally toes the line between touching (first single “Love Remains the Same”) and saccharine (“The Skin I’m In,” which the singer describes as “just a nice song for my girl.”)
Even when veering into political pontificating (the overly-earnest “If You’re Not With Us, You’re Against Us” and the soaring, oddly peppy “Frontline” are described as anti-war songs), Rossdale revisits the pervasive wife and kids theme. Either he’s been watching a lot of Dr. Phil or he and Stefani have somehow figured out the secret to a successful celebrity marriage.
Rossdale says he briefly considered collaborating with his old bandmates and releasing “WANDERlust” as a Bush record. Instead, he decided to go it alone, and recruited four musicians to play during the recording sessions – as well as a number of guest collaborators, including renowned songwriter/producer Linda Perry on the piano-driven “Forever May You Run,” and Shirley Manson of Garbage, who contributes vocals to “The Trouble I’m In.”
While “WANDERlust” isn’t groundbreaking by any means, the songs are catchy enough to satisfy Rossdale’s old fans and probably earn him some new ones as well. But while his status as a rock star will likely take a back seat to his role as a father and husband, it’s apparent that the role of family man is one that Rossdale embraces.