The Sensual World (1989)

This Woman’s Mediocre Work

It brings me great displeasure to say this but I don’t like Kate Bush’s 6th studio LP The Sensual World. This is the only Kate Bush album I’m not keen on (unless you also count Director’s cut). However I would think based on the album’s three singles this would be another masterpiece. I’ll begin with the good.

The title track, well it has sensual in the title for a reason. The combination of synthesizers and uillieann pipes creates the most well, sensual sound. Like Wuthering Heights I question if there exists another song like it and if it is one of the reasons why Kate Bush’s work acts like a gateway to a world of high culture. This Woman’s Work is my favourite Kate Bush song, despite this being my least favourite album of hers. This is it; this is the saddest song ever – the crème de la crème of tear jerking songs. I can’t listen to this song in a public place or else I’ll well up. Although the song is about having a baby from the father’s perspective, the lyric “Of all the things we should have said that we never said, all the things we should’ve done that we never did” always conjures up thoughts of regret that I have in my life of things I should have done but didn’t; but not necessarily in a depressing manner.

Upon hearing the song Deeper Understanding I could not believe just how ahead of its time it was; a song from 1989 about people not only being addicted but having relationships with computers. I wonder if this song if any way helped inspire the movie Her. Even the music video for the Director’s Cut version in 2011 is reminiscent of Her. By comparison, what could you do on a computer in 1989 that you would be spending hours on it? Is she predicting the invention of the World Wide Web? Also take the lyric “But I was lonely, I was lost, without my little black box, I pick my phone and execute”. Did she just describe an IPhone? Man screw Nostradamus, Kate Bush is where it’s at. This is one of two Kate Bush songs which speak to me the most, the other being Sat In Your Lap.

The rest of the album is mediocre to average. The Fog, Reaching Out and Never Be Mine; I feel there are great songs in there but these tracks feel incomplete to me. Heads We’re Dancing is a song I find lyrically interesting, involving a story about dancing with Hitler himself but the rhythm of the song is lacking. Between a Man and a Woman is completely disposable with its generic lyrics and mediocre rhythm but my least favourite song on the album, as well as my least favourite Kate Bush song in general is Rocket’s Tail. The choir featured in the song are far too loud, to the point that I feel like saying “guys can you keep it down, I’m trying to hear Kate sing” and right in the middle of it all is a very obnoxious guitar solo. It pains me to write this review but I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

Hounds Of Love (1985)

Her Undisputed Masterpiece

Do you like Kate Bush? I’ve been a big fan ever since the release of her 1978 debut album The Kick Inside. In ’85 Kate released this, Hounds of Love, her most accomplished album. The whole album has a clear crisp sound and a new sheen of consummate professionalism which really gives the songs a big boost, while at the same time it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding four albums.

In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer song writing, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Take the lyrics to Cloudbusting, in this song Kate Bush addresses the problem of abusive political authority.

Running Up That Hill is the most moving pop song of the 1980’s, about understanding and commitment. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it’s not too late to better ourselves. It’s impossible in this world to emphasize with ourselves, unless we emphasize with our other. It’s an important message, crucial really, and it’s beautifully stated on the album.

It’s hard to choose a favourite among so many great tracks, but I think The Ninth Wave is her undisputed masterpiece; it’s an epic meditation on mysticism. The final song is extremely uplifting, her lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything as anything I’ve heard in rock.

Take The Big Sky, a great, great song, a personal favourite. A song so catchy, people probably don’t listen to the lyrics, but they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of pensive day dreaming and the importance of the inner child, but is also a personal statement about the artist herself. Hey Paul…

The Dreaming (1982)

Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie!

The Dreaming is a very hard album to get into. I won’t blame you if your initial reaction to this album is “what the hell is this?!” There’s no instantly accessible pop hit from the album such as Wuthering Heights or Babooshka. I was in doubt at first that I would ever get into The Dreaming and that I would consider it an album that I would happily come back to listen to again and again. Well after much persistent listening, I now find my aforementioned comments hard to believe. Admittedly I wouldn’t even play any of these songs in front of my relatives; they’re just that weird and would probably turn them off Kate Bush. This is the last Kate Bush album I would recommend for new comers, despite it being a masterpiece.

Sat In Your Lap is the Kate song I relate to the most, a real “This was written for me” track; a song which deals with humanity’s pursuit of knowledge and the unwillingness to devote the effort required to obtain it. My own further interpretation of the song is the belief that obtaining knowledge will make you happy and give you a high, yet this only leads to eventual dissatisfaction as you see it’s just a foothill for a bigger mountain of knowledge behind it, yet we keep doing it again and again. Talk about story of my life. Whenever I feel like I can’t go on with a task (such as writing this very review), this song helps inspire me to finish it.

There Goes a Tenner is initially off putting with Kate singing in a Cockney accent but the thing which helped me eventually fall in love with it was the moment I deciphered this lyric: “You are Bogart, he is George Raft, that leave Cagney and me (what about Edward G!)”. While Kate is generally not an angry artist, this is a great album to vent off anger, with the title track in particular, a song about the destruction of Aboriginal homelands by white Australians in their quest for weapons-grade uranium. Who writes stuff like this?! Kate does! Get Out Of My House (aka the song in which Kate makes donkey sounds) is terrifying, not to mention they sure saved the weirdest song for last. Like many Kate songs, if anyone else did this it would be moronic but because it’s Kate, it works.

The Dreaming is an album which is overlooked by critics and the public but is widely considered among Kate Bush fandom to be her greatest work.  My personal favourite Kate album is ether The Dreaming or The Red Shoes. Kate has never made an album more bonkers than this, which unleashes the weirdo in all of us.

Lionheart (1978)

Oh Kate, My Lionheart

Lionheart is the underdog of Kate Bush’s work; usually dismissed as the inferior, rushed follow up to The Kick Inside. Pfft, what album are the people who say this listening to? Lionheart was released only nine months after The Kick Inside but you would never know it. The album is campy, theatrical and is the kookiest thing Bush has ever recorded but it doesn’t care who knows it. What do you expect from an album which has Kate dressed as a lion on the cover?

There’s not a track I dislike here and choosing a favourite is hard. Ultimately have to go with Kaskha from Baghdad, a song which creates such a visualisation in my head with lyrics such as “Cause when the alley-cats come out, you can hear music from Kashka’s house”. The song is believed to be about a male homosexual couple: “Kashka lives in sin they say, with another man”. Is Kashka the name designated to a man? Lionheart has some of the best representations of Kate’s ability to tell stories through her music. Likewise with the song Fullhouse, a particular favourite of mine, contains lyrics real cinematic scope, describing a scene which could come straight from a film noir.

Lionheart is probably the most English album ever; Oh England My Lionheart is probably the most English song ever. I’m not an anglophile but when I listen to this song I sure feel like one! An unabashedly romantic to the highest degree, yearning for an England that no longer exists, or perhaps never existed to begin with. I also notice the lyric notes on the CD and Vinyl for Lionheart has those of Oh England, My Lionheart is in Kate’s own handwriting; odd when you consider that Kate apparently doesn’t even like the song.

With Symphony In Blue Kate sings from the point of view of a girl who realises the joy of sex is not only what makes life worth living but is essential; “Here we have a purpose in life, good for the blood circulation, good for releasing the tension, the root of our reincarnations”; a liberating mindset from a woman who is only 20.

From Kate’s first three albums, I have decided this is my favourite. Lionheart represents Kate Bush’s musical progression;  It’s more varied and thematic than The Kick Inside and feels more complete than Never for Ever (not that I’m putting down those albums, they’re both also amazing), no two songs here sound alike. My advice is to listen to this album on a cold winter’s night, such atmosphere! Grab your tea and crumpets and be whisked away to Kate’s English dreamland.

The Kick Inside (1978)

The Kate Inside

It was in 2012 in which I had my first exposure to Kate Bush when I heard Running Up That Hill on an ITunes radio station. I was immediately hooked on the song and listened to it many times over the next few weeks. However at this point in my life I wasn’t actively exploring music, although just a few years earlier I had been but my love of cinema pushed music the side for a number years so I only knew Kate Bush as that Running Up That Hill singer. Although I thought Running Up That Hill was an incredible song, I assumed she would have been an artist who I would only like one song from. Otherwise how come I had never heard of her until now?

Fast forward to 2014 and I am hearing news reports of Kate Bush embarking on her first series of concerts in 35 years. With this renewed interest in Kate Bush in the media, I heard Wuthering Heights on the radio. “Holy crap!” was my reaction. This was the beginning of my descent into the weird and wacky world of Kate Bush. I HAD to check out this woman’s work. Which I did, followed by checking out the albums, followed by buying them, followed by listen to every song carefully and deciphering every lyric. Kate Bush reignited my interest in music which I had lost over the past few years. How did this woman bypass me for so many years?! Was it due to her reclusive nature, or not having released an album for 12 years of my life (I was born in 1992). I need answers!

Kate Bush doesn’t fit into any one music genre. She is a genre!

 

“What’s your favourite music genre?”

“Kate Bush.”

 

Has there ever been another song in history like Wuthering Heights? Even Kate herself has never made another song like it. How many pop songs base their lyrics of classic literature that makes you want to read novel it’s based on. Listening to Kate makes you feel smarter. Kate’s story driven songs such as this always create such a visual image in my head. Although Heathcliff and Cathy are not strictly Kate’s creation, her ability to conjure characters in her songs is unparalleled.

Although The Kick Inside doesn’t have recurring theme like her subsequent albums, being more of a collection of songs, every track stands on its own. Kite is the most bonkers and innocent song on the album, James and the Cold Gun reminds me more of Bruce Springsteen, one of Kate’s least Kate like songs but a superb rocker. The Saxophone Song has a very sinister sounding final minute which I can’t help but listen to over and over again. Them Heavy People is one of Kate’s most infectious songs, it will never leave your head, especially the uttering of “Rolling the ball”; admittedly this song can get a little annoying if you listen to it enough times but I still like it. Strange Phenomena is (apparently) about having a period; Kate Bush, daring to go lyrically where no one else dares! Feel It on the other hand makes no effort to disguise that it is about a sex, completely directly and honestly. Wrapping of the album is the title track, which shows how Kate Bush isn’t afraid to experiment with controversial subjects. It’s speculated that the song is deals with a brother and sister who have a sexual relationship resulting in her getting pregnant with her baby and the decision to commit suicide rather than being shame on her brother (just where does she come up with this stuff?). Although we can’t be sure; it’s fun deciphering these songs which are as mysterious as Kate Bush herself.

All the songs on the album make me want to jump around the room and mime like Kate does in many of her music videos, although I’d probably look like a mad git if I did so. Pop on the album, dim the lights, sit back with your eyes closed and allow The Kick Inside to kick your own insides.