For me, and many a prog-rock aficionado the world over, Kate Bush was/is the ‘Cult Queen of Cool’ who became the unofficial premiere female artist in a very male-dominated genre. I know she was having success in the Pop sphere. From her first acclaimed album The Kick Inside (1978) with the single “Wuthering Heights” she was the crazy-dancing doyen of baroque-pop. But she was always an acquired taste. Some people couldn’t stand her. And this designation made us Prog-fans claim her even more. She seemed like one of us. Nerdy, literate, obsessive, out-of-step. And Kate seemed to celebrate her ‘otherness’. She went about making her own unique music, album after album. With Hounds of Love she brought her signature theatricality into a more modern context, utilising the technology of the time to help animate her vision in a broader setting. And it’s a (another) masterpiece. From the opening hit, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, we’re reminded this is a fearless artist who combines melody, rhythm and structure masterfully, and then matches it with ambitious concepts to achieve maximum results. Her vocal performances are brilliant, and the lyrics thoughtful & crafted, as usual. Only Kate Bush could/would write a song like “Cloudbusting” – sung from the perspective of (radical psychologist/inventor) Wilhelm Reich’s son, who watches his father in awe, and mourns his father’s imprisonment (never to see him again), inspiring him to tell his father’s story. And the second half of the album is a suite of songs that comprise a mini concept album about a woman lost and drowning in freezing waters. The song “And Dream of Sheep” is worth particular mention, coz it’s one of Kate’s most beautiful compositions. The sadness in the melody is heartbreaking, and the lyrics paint an image of calm release and dignified escape from suffering: “If they find me racing white horses/ They’ll not take me for a buoy/ Let me be weak/ Let me sleep/ And dream of sheep”. The fear of dying is sublimated into a simple wish: “I can’t keep my eyes open/ Wish I had my radio/ I’d tune into some friendly voices/ Talking about stupid things/ I can’t be left to my imagination”. The remainder of the album is a swirling watery diorama filled with cut-up sounds, choppy rhythms and ambient chimes that play out like someone’s life flashing before their crying eyes. A great uncompromising album from a great unconventional artist.
~ DECOY SPOON