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Main Category: Art Rock
Also applicable: Singer-Songwriters, Lush Pop, Avantgarde
Starting Period: The Punk/New Wave Years
Also active in: The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1978
Overall rating =

Been a long time since "romantic" and "intellectual" could be joined so seamlessly.


Track listing: 1) Moving; 2) The Saxophone Song; 3) Strange Phenomena; 4) Kite; 5) The Man With The Child In His Eyes; 6) Wuthering Heights; 7) James And The Cold Gun; 8) Feel It; 9) Oh To Be In Love; 10) L'Amour Looks Something Like You; 11) Them Heavy People; 12) Room For The Life; 13) The Kick Inside.

Let's face the crushing facts. First of all, Kate Bush can't really write normal songs. Can't? More like "will not", with a "will" that begs for a "steel" at its side. At least, not in 1978, she wouldn't. Her instrumental melodies avoid cliches to the extent of avoiding everything that could even vaguely pass for a cliche: hooks, predictable chord sequences, the whole goddamn bloody experience that pop music had been garnering for more than two decades. Her vocal melodies follow the same pattern, so that you can't categorize them as anything - they're too jazzy to be poppy, too classical to be jazzy, and too poppy to be classical. They do have hooks, but you'll have to seriously review your conception of a hook to notice that.

Second, Kate Bush doesn't really have a lot to say - the lyrics seem oddly deep at first, but once you start deconstructing them, they're somehow not. Actually, this is all pretty standard romantic fare - with numerous deviations, for sure, but the girl is no Prophet Isaiah, I can tell you that. Well, whaddaya expect - she was nineteen years old at the time (not eighteen, though, which is the common myth spread on every corner). Not even a true wunderkind can have his Kant and his Albert Camus and his Umberto Eco properly memorized by that age. For the moment, Emily Bronte will suffice.

Third, Kate's singing, particularly on this record, really pisses off a lot of people. Warning issued - the squealing soprano can definitely sound off-putting if you're not in the right mood to take it, and it don't matter what kind of music you're listening to. Your female ideal may be Janis Joplin, or it might be Rita Hayworth, you're still gonna get used to the sweetness of Kate Bush. Imagine somebody putting five lumps of sugar into a tiny coffee cup. Doesn't that seem appalling? Now imagine that person putting in fifteen pieces of said stuff, and that's Kate Bush and her voice on The Kick Inside. It's a point at which sweetness transgresses the borders of 'sweetness' and becomes something seriously else. Whether that overheated else is charcoal or diamond, that's up to you to decide.

Now maybe you thought all of these points were complaints. Think again! In 1978, who the heck was writing "normal" songs with philosophical lyrics and unexaggerated singing? I'll tell you who. Styx, that's who! This is not Styx, though. This is the second most important record of the year, right behind Brian Eno's Before And After Science. A record much, much imitated since then, but never surpassed - and, in fact, never even truly approached by anyone, be it Tori Amos or Tori Amos.

Kate, propelled into action by Dave Gilmour (best thing the man ever did along with the guitar solo on 'Time'), had already hit the charts with 'Wuthering Heights' before she went into the studio to make her first LP, and she did not disappoint, largely because so much of the material had been polished and perfected before (after all, she started writing songs at 11, so there must have been plenty of time). I'm even willingly shutting up about how she was actually one of the first female artists to establish herself as a serious art-rock composer and performer, although that's definitely important. The most important thing, though, was that she was the woman who - if I might say so - really put the art into art-rock, or art-pop, whatever. 'Art' understood in a very traditional, 19th-century-like sense; 'art' as idealized by the "realistic romanticists" of the old time, rather than 'art' in the 'wow man, look what I found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, man!' sense.

Once you got that gist, it all comes together then. The instrumental melodies don't really need to be catchy. They're just there for atmosphere: moody jazzy passages, something like a cross between Elton John and Aja-era Steely Dan, alternating with mildly symphonic arrangements - or, just to throw you off track, a ska-like rhythm now and then. Likewise, you're not supposed to memorize the melodies that Kate is singing, you're supposed to be living them out while they're on, like opera. And the lyrics aren't undecipherable (which is not necessarily bad), but they are definitely smart (which is necessarily good); Kate's depiction of all kind of romantic situations, from the pure sensual lust of 'Moving' and 'Feel It' to the ghostly references of 'Wuthering Heights', are certainly unique in rock poetry, want it or not. ('You crush the lily in my soul' - Madonna would be too dumb to ascend to this, Joni Mitchell would be too proud to stoop to this, but for Kate, it hits the nail right on the head).

And finally, Kate's 'squealing' voice is just part of the regular schtick. It's theater, see, and this is a true actor's voice - I'm not exactly a theater fan, but I take it because I'm supposed to take it. Rumours have it that Kate's record company tried to persuade her to sing in a more 'traditional' manner (that's one rumour I can definitely believe), but she convinced them otherwise. And a good thing that she did - an ordinary voice would have simply ruined the whole effect. There should be no compromise here.

Actually, one more thing about the voice and its effectiveness. The Kick Inside is not a conceptual album, formally. But all the songs are somehow united by one perspective - and the perspective, the way it seems to me, is that of a well-educated, well-read, well-mannered, well-worded, well-gifted, and, above all, naively romantic and hopelessly optimistic, say, 13- or 14-year Victorian girl living somewhere out there among the green fields in an old family manor. Now obviously, not all of this applies to Kate herself - but this is her fantasy world, and one that's far better imagined and realised than either the "topographic oceans" of Yes or even the "village green" of the Kinks. (In fact, I would only perhaps place the half-fantasy, half-reality lore of 1972-73 Genesis next to this world, and if you ask me, that's hardly a coincidence that Kate's most fruitful collaborations happened to be with Peter Gabriel). And the "squealing" voice of that immaculately pure 13- or 14-year-old girl - that true "heavenly creature", although, thankfully, without any negative consequences like the ones we see in Peter Jackson's movie - is exactly the voice that's necessary to put the final brick in the wall.

Individual songs... there are highlights and there is relative filler, but everything is hard to describe. If you're new to this and you want to tread water with care, start with the hit single, of course. No, there is no need to be a big fan of Emily Bronte, not at all. (I myself have to make the shameful confession of not having read a single page of Wuthering Heights). The song has got the catchiest refrain of them all, and, although there is hardly any desperation or depression in the melodies, the overall autumnal atmosphere will nevertheless transplant you into the ghost world for a few minutes, then bring you back to reality with Ian Bairnson's tremendous guitar solo (all the more tremendous because it prefers to follow the melody rather than deviate from it).

Other "memorable" songs would probably include 'Moving' - the album opener, which at once demonstrates both the 'squealing' - 'how I'm moved!' - and the truly serious singing abilities - 'how you move me with your beauty's potency', moving across several octaves, no? Something like that. Then there's the couple "lightweight" numbers, rather upbeat and bouncy in nature, 'Them Heavy People', Kate's ode to the intellectuals to whom she owes so much ("...them heavy people hit me in a soft spot - rolling the ball..."), and 'Oh To Be In Love', in which the intellectuals disappear without a trace and pure, unbridled feeling of the 13-year old girl replaces everything else. Many people call these songs (albums, Kate's style overall, Kate herself) "sexy", but that's missing the point. "Sexy", unless you're talking Marquis de Sade, is really oh so 20th century. This is really before they let "sexy" into art. This is "romance" the way it has never ever been present in American pop music, and very rarely been present in any other pop music. Did anyone, anywhere, at any time sing in the way the line 'oh! to be in love, and never get out again' is sung here? Not in my experience.

Moving past that, you might experience the more complex (which is, of course, not to say the "much better") pleasures of the album. The odd fusion-like bubbling keyboards in 'Saxophone Song' (don't worry, there is a saxophone, too, she's not that weird). The most bizarre way ever to sing 'om mani padme hum' on 'Strange Phenomena' - is it just me, or is Kate actually using the romantic makeup on here in order to satirize and ridicule all the 'gurus' in our life? She's not being serious about 'he has the answer', is she? The glorious childish fantasy in 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes' (more of those freaky Peter Jackson associations. Get off of me already!). The sink-in-like-a-stone effect of the heavily and conclusively dropped line 'l'amour - looks something - like you' on the track of the same name. The uneasy feeling of the 'giving in, giving in, giving in...' cooing on the title track - which is about incest, nothing less, but then you didn't think all these Victorian girls whose personalities she's exploring only dreamt about Prince Charmings, did you? It's nowhere near that safe, bucko.

I dunno, it's just one of those records I could listen to for days on end, discovering something new all the time. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's perfect - some of the songs overstay their welcome by a short bit - but not one song is completely wasted, not even the oddly distinctive 'James And The Cold Gun', which basically looks like its only true reason for existence was to demonstrate that Kate Bush can actually rock and would rather be associated with the tougher crowds than with the likes of Karen Carpenter. But it's still a good song (the funny thing is that I've always assumed it to be about James Bond in the first place, when it's actually about some unknown gangster. I still like to think of it as a James Bond song, though, it's cooler that way), even if it hardly fits into the romantic Victorian girl personality. Still, if you suppose I managed to pigeonhole the record pretty tight, you're wrong. You'd have to write a PhD on it to pigeonhole it.



Year Of Release: 1978

A relative disappointment, as the album was rushed out a bit too quickly - for some reason, Kate's record company requested a follow-up almost immediately, and she only had about three months to come out with her next "product". So, predictably, it suffers a lot from the 'sequel' problem, and in many respects, it's just a weak, pale shadow of Kick Inside: this really sucks, considering that Kate is known for constantly shifting directions.

That said, I'm quite amazed all the same, because for an inferior sequel, Lionheart is surprisingly effective. The atmosphere is more or less the same, except that this time around Ms Bush is really, er, beating around the bush with all kinds of weird fairy-tale and pseudo-medieval fantasies - I know she's well-read and all, but sometimes the things you read just get to your head, you know what I mean? Oh well, if we can forgive people like Keith Reid for abusing obscure literature metaphors, we can forgive Ms Bush for the same things.

Once again, since we're mostly dealing with an atmospheric listen, everybody's personal favourites will be different on here. For me, about half of this album doesn't really go any place special, but the other half is just as good as ever; in any case, I can hardly agree with the regular portion of fans who claim that Lionheart only seems weaker than its predecessor because it's - go figure - 'less accessible'. It's less accessible because it has too many throwaways, and you know it's always harder to 'access' a throwaway than access a well-written song. I mean, I suppose I could 'access' an album like King Crimson's THRaKaTTaK, but it would take me a million listens (to painfully memorize every little twiddle-dee-bang of Bruford's percussion) and more goodwill than in the case of all my other albums combined. But hey, I could 'access' it! I could even write that "I know many people find it hard work to put their brain cells in motion, preferring to judge records with their ass, but what can we do? Smart music requires smart listeners". I could, but hopefully, I never will.

Anyway, I was talking about Lionheart. Here, then, is my judgement about some of the better-written individual titles. 'Symphony In Blue' is well-played and relaxing, something Joni Mitchell would have liked, I suppose. The slightly upbeat rhythm and well-arranged vocal harmonies rule. The somber, slightly ironic - maybe even cynical - 'Wow', dedicated to the problems of acting and show-biz, rules as well, with that beautiful chorus and all (here's a great hook for you! try singing 'wow' six times in a row and see what happens!). 'Oh England My Lionheart' is unbelievably sappy, but Kate Bush is perhaps the only artist in whose case sappiness actually works for the better. 'Coffee Homeground' is just such a strange track that I don't know what to make of it. It's structured more or less like a generic Broadway musical, but the lyrics, partially sung in a somewhat annoying stage accent that you'll have to get used to ("have zee vaaaalls got ears?"), deal with, well, they seem to deal with the problems of somebody constantly wanting to poison Kate. I guess that's a metaphor. Finally, the last track on here, 'Hammer Horror', might arguably seem the best, alternating between joyful/playful and disturbing/gloomy parts and showcasing Kate's skills at recreating either one of those moods with the best of her abilities.

None of the other tracks impress me all that much (apart from maybe a couple sections in a couple tracks, like the sudden fast section in the otherwise boring '), but I admit that's somewhat subjective. In any case, I don't think anybody would really call the album as strong as Kick: to my mind, Kate's style on these two records is not something you can just easily go over in a couple of weeks, and she should have certainly given herself more time to polish off everything. Still, those who dearly loved Kick can't go wrong with this follow-up, I think, but don't make the mistake of starting here.



Year Of Release: 1980

Prior to the recording of this one, Kate met Peter Gabriel and did a couple of recordings with him - you can hear her backing vocals on a couple PG III tracks, most notably 'Games Without Frontiers'. This might have been a minor session, but it led to important results: Pete gave Kate a slight, uhm, "kick from outside", pushing her into a new musical direction. This here third album is essentially the same Kate Bush as before, which is, an intelligent and highly literate female performer presenting weird stories and unique atmospheres rather than coherent well-structured songs. But there's a new way of presentation here - a way that is much more reliant on the actual musical/sonic background.

Earlier, you could actually take Kate and a piano and that was it; her voice was the main instrument, with the piano and, occasionally, the strings and maybe some other rarely used gadgets just to serve as moody background. Never For Ever is the first time Kate has really truly perceived the power of the studio and the power of the backing band. The songs here range from her usual breathy ballads to music hall numbers to trippy vocal harmony experiments to drum machine and synthesizer enhanced modernistic pieces of "art pop", and the backing band happens to include a former Alan Parsons Project guitarist and the drummer from Brand X (not Phil Collins, the other one), as well as Max Middleton on synths, none other than the guy who helped Jeff Beck record Blow By Blow.

Like its predecessors, Never For Ever is hardly a concept album, and on a pure 'artistry vision' level, doesn't signal any major changes, but this combination of Kate's basic stylistics with enhanced and improved studio wizardry at least guarantees the results are a notch above the tossed-off Lionheart. There are a couple of cases when I'm not able to notice inspiration - the indoctrinating 'All We Ever Look For', in particular, strikes me as an almost irritating throwaway, despite the light breathy chorus; and 'Blow Away (For Bill)' might be notable for its lyrics which are almost structured as some kind of a tribute to the deceased heroes of rock'n'roll but is very scattered and clumsy otherwise. No well-defined focus in these songs.

But that doesn't prevent the album from containing a large bunch of tunes that I consider to be among Kate's best ever. First of all, this is where you'll find her most renowned song of all time after 'Wuthering Heights', and that, of course, is 'Babooshka' (ah, I love these Russian words with the misplaced accent - in case you wanted to know, the correct place of the accent is the first syllable) - a stunning tale of a wife testing her husband by seducing him in disguise. It's hard to describe what's so great about the song, actually, because, unlike 'Wuthering Heights', it does not have that climactic soaring chorus, not to mention that by the time Never For Ever was recorded, Kate's voice has become somewhat softer and a tiny bit lower, no longer rising to the same "hysterical hypersexiness" you could find annoying (or overtly attractive) on Kick. And yet, 'Babooshka' works, maybe because the transition from the gripping (in a thriller way) vocal melody to the music-hall infested chorus is so smooth.

But then there's a whole load of these lesser known songs that are all gorgeous beyond words. 'Egypt' is luscious and sensitive and a little frivolous and a little reminiscent of 'Moving' from the debut album - same "icy and sexy" tone that chills you to the bone and makes your manlihood throb at the same time. And to top it all, Middleton plays this wonderful jazzy synth solo that sounds uncannily like all his solos with Jeff Beck, only where on a Jeff Beck record it would pass for nothing but a technically perfect, boring fusion solo, on 'Egypt' it adds to the mystique of the tune in a HUGE way - talk about contexts and their importance. Then there's 'The Wedding List', another of those romantic stories, this time of a girl hunting down her former boyfriend on the day of his wedding (or so I understand). It's like a mini-musical in four minutes, the kind of thing Kate's main influence was known for in his Genesis days; Kate even speaks/sings in different voices on the record, although she seems to be impersonating the same personage.

'Violin' rocks really hard - the idea is to praise the enchanting virtues of the instrument ('whack that devil into my fiddlestick!'), with references to country dancing alternating with references to Paganini and the violin in question actually playing everything from jigs to modern classical. There's guitar too, and a great bassline, and a raunchy vocal performance, perhaps Kate's raunchiest so far. And then it's immediately followed by 'The Infant Kiss', which is about sexual attraction to a little boy, no less. 'All my barriers are going, it's starting to show... let go, let go!'. And I haven't yet mentioned the pretty waltz of 'Army Dreamers', and the soothing drum machines (sic!) of 'Delius', and the apocalyptic pre-nuclear explosion panorama of 'Breathing', all cool beyond measure. 'Breathing' is particularly hypnotizing, an anthem to BREATH of sorts and a hypothetical picture of what happens when you cannot breathe any more... really shiver-sending, and a spectacular ending to a somewhat uneven, but still a truly excellent album. I mean, let's give credit where it's deserved - Kate displays more freedom of fantasy and knowledgeability at the same time than an absolute majority of, er, male performers of her generation, and that's not just my opinion.



Year Of Release: 1982

Guess the critics were stumped with this one. With all her innovative ideas and highly literate lyrics and untrivial song structures, Kate still made the previous three albums sound relatively accessible and even commercial, with monster singles like 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Babooshka' to assure herself some place on the radio and on, well, just your average turntable. The Dreaming certainly wasn't the first completely inaccessible album ever made; it was simply the first completely inaccessible album from an artist formerly known to possess a solid commercial instinct. No more cute Emily Dickinson-style girl writing hit pop singles, instead you got yourself a wildly experimental singerine dabbling in esoteric avantgarde performance art.

And The Dreaming is Kate at her best. Aw come on now, the girl was never about catchy melodies, she was always about refined romantic atmosphere with a touch of the mystical and a touch of the cynical. The Dreaming really just emphasizes these sides, as well as breaks down all the remaining barriers that separated Kate from complete freedom of fantasy. She herself called this her 'mad' album, and it is one, although this is no madness a la Captain Beefheart; all of the songs have a very strictly defined emotional/subconscious message/impact, and in fact, some of the songs actually make sense once you start digging into the lyrics and getting hints from knowledgeable people. Thus, 'There Goes A Tenner' is actually about a bank robbery, and 'Pull Out The Pin' deals with the feelings and farings of a Vietnamese guy fighting American soldiers, and so on and so on. Not that the album isn't enjoyable if you don't know what the hell she is singing about - it's just that doing a little bit of research on these songs would actually make it easier to get into them if the weirdness rubs off on the wrong side of you.

There's just so friggin' much about this album I wouldn't know where to start. Okay, let's start from the beginning? 'Sat In Your Lap' is a hilarious song about the ups and downs of knowledge and scholarship - distinguished by bombastic loud-as-hell drum machines, music-hall piano, and at least three or four totally different singing styles: watch Kate go from the quiet cockneyesque half-rappin' of the verses to the wild high-pitched screaming of the 'some say that knowledge is somethin' sat in your lap' chorus to the operatic wailing of the middle eight. Oh, did I mention the funny 'pow pow' rhythmic noises yet? Or the funky horn-imitating synths? Or the near-symphonic bombastic ending? And yes, it's just the first song.

'There Goes A Tenner' greets you with more music hall, and actually reminds me a bit of classic Genesis songs like 'Harold The Barrel', there's so many rapidly changing sections over a single vaguely developed "realistic" story. At one point Kate even starts incorporating Eastern motives for a few seconds. And there's just something that happens to me every time I hear the main verse melody - that weird theatrical pronunciation on the 'there goes a tenner, hey look, there's a fiver' lines gets to me every single time. Plus, you gotta realize that when a pretty sexy girl croons out a tune about a bank robbery, the very fact of witnessing such an event is something to remember all your life, right?

'Pull Out The Pin', the Vietnamese epic, is a particularly impressive standout, and probably one of the songs on here to be taken really seriously. Here, we watch this Vietnam guy who has 'never been so happy to be alive' as he hides from the invaders and plans secret operations on 'em... the whole song has a kind of an operatic feel, but in a good way, and the idea to use the wild scream 'I love life!' as kind of a general background vocal is sheer genius. You'll have yourself a few things to analyze lyrically, too - 'I look in American eyes, I see little life, see little wife, he's striking violence up in me'.

'Suspended In Gaffa' is one of my personal favourites, continuing the "mystical travelogue" line of 'Egypt'. It's a waltz this time, with more of those singing styles and a thoroughly, thoroughly lush atmosphere created merely through a minimalistic synth-accordeon and light percussion background and gorgeous singing (did I mention yet that Kate produced the album herself?). The 'suspended in Gaffa' topic kinda escapes me lyrically, except that there are obvious romance overtones as usual, but who cares? The whiny backing vocals are a marvel, and after all, it's the album's first song that has really anything to do with Kate's previous career, returning the "esoteric romantics" vibe back to front. Ooh, what a vibe.

If 'Suspended In Gaffa' is the album's romantic highlight, then 'Leave It Open' is its dark mystical highlight. Some people have mentioned Gothic overtones on this album, but really "Goth" is something way too primitive compared to the complexity of conveyed emotions on here. "Goth" involves morose minor chords played on a church organ or at least a low-tuned electric guitar and a singer that sounds like he's just buried his entire family, including three of his little children and his most beloved wife. Neither on 'Leave It Open' nor anywhere else here there are none of these overtones. True, after a couple minutes of spooky melodyless singing, the drums kick in and a bleak distorted guitar starts pumping out something proto-industrial, but hey, on top of that Kate chants 'we let the weirdness in' in more of that prime Eastern fashion. Verily and truly weirdness has been let in...

...and it thrives on the title track, which already makes no lyrical sense whatsoever ("'bang'! goes another kanga on the bonnet of her van", eh?), but it shouldn't, hey, it's 'The Dreaming'. It's a schizophrenic dream sequence, and one of the most inventive I've ever heard. The otherworldly chanting, the minimalistic piano notes, the ethnic percussion, the strange goofy synth whistling, and above all Kate's surrealistic babble that culminates in that 'coming in with the golden light in the morning' chorus that gotta be the most confusing and disorienting chorus ever written. And to top it all, the song ends with a short - and relatively normal - piece of Celtic music, driven by the acoustic guitar, the fiddle, and... did I hear bagpipes? Or was it my miserable imagination, totally ruined by the unmatched freakiness of the tune? Or was it an intricate trick of the mix?

'Night Of The Swallow' is another tune remotely related to Kate's earlier period, one of the songs I could have easily visualised on The Kick Inside. Very sweet and romantic, although the way she strains her vocals in the verses kinda bugs me, because I think that raspiness is one thing that rarely suits her. She's no Janis Joplin, after all. Then again, it's only a few disorienting moments, otherwise the song is yet another highlight, and it actually builds up on that same Celtic melody that acted as a coda to 'The Dreaming'. Although the lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with any kind of Celtic thematics.

Since the review is getting way too long, I'll skip the next two songs - 'All The Love' and 'Houdini' are both pretty nice, beautiful even, I'd say, but nowhere near as eyebrow-raising as the rest of the album - and end it right there with the angry, pissed-off, and totally paranoid rambunctiousness of 'Get Out Of My House'. Just about everything about that song rules: the looped 'get out of my house!' screams, the repetitive, intense 'with my key I, with my key I, with my key I (lock it)', the weird accent on the spoken 'I am the concierge chez-moi, honey' "middle eight", if only this can be called a 'middle-eight', the hee-haw-hee-haw vocals at the end... everything, bar the actual music which mainly concentrates on drum machines and an isolated piano note here and there, but hey, what do you want, The Dreaming is a vocal-oriented album.

It's a true experience to sit through these songs - a marvelous experience - and while I hate throwing pretentious titles around, it might just be the best female artist album of the Eighties altogether. At the very least, it's certainly the most inventive: I have yet to hear a work which would have more overall freedom of fantasy and at the same time sound coherent and emotionally resonant. And let me tell you, it's pretty amazing to have an album of such depth of penetration coming out as late as the early Eighties and get on by sheer emotional power, without having to resort to any of the cynical New Wave-special post-modernist tricks. Unlike, uh, say, the Talking Heads, you can actually cry to this album if you wish, yet at the same time it never takes itself that seriously, and it never pretends to be indoctrinating either. Just an intelligent girl's dark fantasies. And probably Kate's sexiest album cover, too.

PS. Actually, the lyrics to 'The Dreaming' do make sense, and 'Night Of The Swallow' does have Irish connotations - see what I said about the use of conducting additional research? Below you'll find the incredibly informed comments of Maher Mughrabi to clarify the subject. Take it on, Maher! Thanks!



Year Of Release: 1985

Kate's major commercial/critical breakthrough - after all those years, I guess most people still know the woman through 'Wuthering Heights', 'Babooshka', and this entire album. It doesn't take a lot to understand that most of this success was due to Kate's imaginative videos strewn all over MTV that year; people might not have really been intrigued so much by the music as the whole package put together. Add to this Kate "starring" with Peter Gabriel in their sentimental duet 'Don't Give Up' (pretty much the most embarrassing thing both of them ever did in their entire career), and hoopla, you got yer three minutes of stardom. Yup, for a brief flashy moment Kate Bush was the next best thing to Duran Duran, imagine that?

Thank God the album is still really good, and as far removed from a "sellout" as possible. It actually battles with The Dreaming all the time for the title of Kate's most profound achievement - in my opinion, falling just a wee bit short of its predecessor mainly because the jaw-dropping thrill of Kate's impossible-to-predict evolution in between 1980 and 1982 is not to be found. Which doesn't mean that it's an inferior rewrite of The Dreaming or anything - in terms of texture and sonic effects, it doesn't add much, but in terms of musical philosophy, it's significantly different.

The Dreaming was pretty much disjointed - a flashing series of typical mundane situations (social, political, personal) filtered through a disturbed mystically tinged conscience. The "processing" was the thing that united these songs, the songs themselves weren't very much related. Hounds Of Love, in that respect, is a much more 'conceptual' album. It drops the political and social issues altogether, concentrating on more metaphysical problems, you know, relations between macrocosm and microcosm, if you get my drift. It's also much more personal - Kate Bush as an individual "tormented spirit" was rarely present on The Dreaming, but she's almost always the centerpiece of this album, with most of the songs sung from the first person and dealing with the inside rather than the outside.

The album is consciously divided into two parts, which people usually call more "pop" (the first five songs) and more "experimental" (the lengthy seven-part suite subtitled 'The Ninth Wave'). This is technically true, as the first part is more melody-based and the second part is more atmosphere-based, with melodies giving way to crazy, goofy sonic collages and occasional instrumental/vocal passages arising from the chaos only to be submerged back into it seconds later. However, I don't feel like Kate herself was stimulating such a distinction - usually we think of such albums as targeting 'unsophisticated' audiences with the pop songs and appealing to more diehard fans with the experimental songs, which isn't the case here. I mean, not even 'Running Up That Hill' is guaranteed to woo over the 'unsophisticated' ones, not without the video help, at least.

It's more appropriate to speak of the two parts in terms of "lighter" and "darker", I guess. It's two sides of the same personality - first, the energetic, uplifting side, constant metaphoric references to the positive spiritual influences of life; then, the dreary, hypnotic, menacing side, and similar references to the yin influences. No direct namecalling here, of course; you can't describe these songs or suites in terms of "this song means so-and-so, this song means so-and-so". But you do get the vibes. Oh yes, do you ever get those vibes, buddy.

And it never really lets you down. A tremendous start with 'Running Up That Hill' - a steady drum machine pattern, minimalistic echoing synths that don't provide much of a melody but provide the perfect background for the song's complex vocal melody, and, of course, some of the best lyrics of the decade: 'And if I only could/I'd make a deal with God/And I'd get him to swap our places/Be running up that road/Be running up that hill/Be running up that building...' The title track reverts us a little bit to the hyperromantic Kate Bush of old - really now, does anyone write more lush love epics than that girl? 'The Big Sky' opens with a lovely little piano-based pop melody, but soon it turns out that the main "body" of the song is, in fact, only a brief intro to the bombastic dancey groove that propels the main three minutes of it - one of the most jovial and life-asserting grooves, actually, that Kate ever did. 'Rolling over like a great big cloud, rolling over with the Big Sky! Rolling over like a great big cloud, rolling over with the Big Sky!'. Woohoo! Kate getting it on!

Uhm, I won't be naming every song on here for now, or this will transform into yet another multi-page raving like my Dreaming review. Suffice it to say that the other two songs are just as good, and then we get 'The Ninth Wave', which is goddamn creepy, and I mean it. The dark side starts to show, the danger comes out, and right after the short intro where the protagonist slips into the world of dreams ('And Dream Of Sheep' - ha ha, no dice, little girl, sheep? Not on a Kate Bush album, no dreaming of sheep for you!) we have Kate 'Under The Ice', with a set of gruff, shiver-sending cellos and ominous vocal harmonies capturing this hideous dream ('there's something moving under... UNDER THE ICE!'), and then it immediately segues into 'Waking The Witch', where at first a gentle, but already scary piano pattern urges the protagonist to 'wake up - look who's here to see you!', and then a dreadful paranoid rhythm crashes through the slumbering and drowsiness and we witness something like a "post-psychedelic soul trial" - I don't know how to describe everything that goes on in the second part, from the wild 'chewn tape' effects to the church bells to the 'red red roses, pinks and posies' to the Lucifer-like "CONFESS TO ME GIRL!" grunts to the yells of 'guilty! guilty!' and so on. Give this stuff a try, and songs like these will never grow old for you.

Of course, it MUST be noted that however strange or scary this 'dream half' might be (what about the weird Celtic arrangements in 'Jig Of Life'? the whacky sci-fi references of 'Hello Earth?'), the album ends just perfectly with a well-made 'awakening' - the little ditty 'The Morning Fog', which has the protagonist shaking off all the nightmares and returning back to the optimism and all the loving of the first half. Now you wouldn't want such a nineteenth-century minded lady like Kate Bush to end your journey in darkness and despair, now would you? And don't worry, no cheese involved either. Just a perfect resolution of all the album's tension, and a terrific ending to an album whose popular renown is well justified.


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