We’re going to do two reviews a week here – one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our throwback album review this week is of Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love. Click “continue reading” to check it out.
Kate Bush is one of the most well-respected female artists ever. She is known for her eclecticism and reclusiveness – she only ever went on one tour, in 1979, and took a hiatus from music for 12 years in order to take care of her son. She is the only female artist to have Top 5 albums in the UK in 5 successive decades. Artists such as Björk and Big Boi of OutKast place her among their favorite artists.
Oscar: Shall we? Actually one second, I’m about to multitask the shit out this bitch. Music reviewing, article-writing, and nail-clipping all at the same time. Now that’s talent. OK cool, let’s do it.
Zen: That makes two of us. Room cleaning, laundry, music reviewing and music editing. But I think you have the more dangerous task of nail clipping.
Oscar: We’ll see. So anyway, why did you pick this album?
Zen: I performed on WMFU’s Minor Music and after the show the host and I chatted and he gave me a list of musicians to check out. Kate Bush was one of them. I took his word and found “Running Up That Hill.” Since listening to that beautiful bit of melodramatic lyrics I’ve been interested in hearing Kate Bush’s album as a whole.
Oscar: Word. And what were your thoughts?
Zen: That it would have made a fantastic Broadway show.
Oscar: I was actually just thinking that on the way home.
Zen: I mean that without any irony too.
Oscar: I know. That show would be absolutely bonkers.
Zen: The dance numbers would have to have acrobatics on par with Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. And besides that, I liked a lot of the album but it certainly had bits I wasn’t so hot about. For the most part her melodramatic performance works, but there were times when it was too much in my eyes and turned into something that could no longer be taken seriously.
Zen: Your thoughts?
Oscar: I pretty much agree. I thought the arrangements were consistently great, but her voice is really where she puts a lot of the drama and that did get to me.
Zen: Yeah, I was incredibly impressed by the production throughout the album. I had a lot of favorite musical moments that came as a surprise.
Oscar: Definitely. And you can see the clear influence she’s had on a lot of people, Haim included. And The Weeknd. The whole each-beat-is-a-different-percussive-instrument, that thing.
Zen: No question about it. I think most female acts, whether they know it or not, owe a bit of their sound to Kate Bush. Especially the really effective call and response nonsense syllables she uses a lot.
Oscar: Yeah, definitely. Syllables are very hot right now.
Zen: I’m waiting for a hipster to boycott syllables because they’ve become too in fashion.
Oscar: I’m sure it’s happened, just nobody knows about it yet.
Zen: Probably because most people couldn’t understand what they were saying. Oh, one of the comparisons I saw through out the album was Bjork’s Homogenic.
Oscar: Word, me too.
Zen: She’s definitely paid attention to those great pop string arrangements.
Oscar: They’ve both got the whole archaic vs. electronic thing.
Zen: And both do it very well. Other thoughts to add, or shall we move to favorite picks?
Oscar: None for me, but I’m sure I’ll think of some. What were your top 3?
Zen: “Running Up That Hill” remains my top. Not because I don’t think there weren’t other songs to rival it, but it’s just such a truly amazing song.
Zen: She goes so far through the melodrama that you can’t help but feel her genuine pain. It’s also one of the most impressive bits of production I’ve heard. I love those licks of synth in the background. I was also surprised that it doesn’t sound too dated. “Under Ice” is my 2nd. I was surprised how menacing that song sounds – those strings are just dripping with evil.
Oscar: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. And then it goes into “Waking the Witch” right after, which is beyond menace. It’s like, “Under Ice” is “something really scary is gonna happen” and then “Waking the Witch” is like “I fucking warned you”
Zen: I could not believe how intense “Waking the Witch” got. Especially cause “Under Ice” conjured images of demented little demons doing a choreographed dance number wearing ice skates, that I didn’t think anything was gonna top it.
Oscar: Nice imagery.
Zen: 3rd would be “Hounds Of Love.” I loved it for the same reason as “Running Up That Hill.” However, if I was the person to make the tracklist, I wouldn’t have put those two songs directly after one another. I think it would have had better impact coming later. But again, amazing production, great string work, and when Kate changed her backing vocals to sound like yowling dogs and yet didn’t make me want to laugh, I became very impressed. Your choices?
Oscar: Top would be “Cloudbusting,” I think.
Oscar: First of all, metaphors about a yo-yo are great. Secondly, the strings are top-notch. The beat goes kind of hard, in a white englishwoman way.
Zen: Sidebar – I had been wondering during the listen if this was intended to be a concept album, and I just did some research and found this on Wikipedia: The album was produced as two suites – side one being “Hounds of Love” and side two being a 7-track concept album called “The Ninth Wave”, which was inspired by a painting of the same name by Ivan Aivazovsky; it was painted in 1850. Bush described it as being “About a person who is alone in the water for the night. It’s about their past, present and future coming to keep them awake, to stop them drowning, to stop them going to sleep until the morning comes.” It starts with her “little light shining, little light will guide them to me,” referring to the little light on her life jacket, and from that point on the tracks lead us through a classic dark-night-of-the-soul journey.
Oscar: Wow, that makes a lot of sense.
Zen: Yeah. I thought that there was a shift in tone and theme after “Cloudbusting.”
Oscar: Yeah, with “And Dream of Sheep” being a transitional piece.
Zen: Exactly. Anyway, good choice. There should be more yo-yo metaphors. 3rd?
Oscar: That was my first. Second is “Running Up That Hill.” It’s just a great piece of ’80s pop. Third is “Under Ice.” It legitimately frightens me, and it conjures up images of old, old England. Like people were bumping this as they were building Stonehenge and digging trenches with deer jawbones and shit.
Zen: It’s a shame making a Broadway show takes so much work, as otherwise we should definitely adapt this to the stage. The house would be packed with an audience longing to see demon ice skaters digging trenches with deer jawbones.
Oscar: Let’s do it. Fuck a budget.
Zen: I’m down. I’m sure the Kate Bush representatives wouldn’t mind giving us the copyrights.
Oscar: Yeah, I believe it.
Zen: Least favorite songs?
Oscar: “Jig of Life,” “Watching You Without Me,” and “The Morning Fog.”
Oscar: Actually, reverse that order.
Oscar: “The Morning Fog” was kind of dull, and the happiness didn’t quite convince me after all that melodrama.
Oscar: “Watching You Without Me” just didn’t really interest me. I thought the Irishman wasn’t a great touch, and the breaks into an actual jig I didn’t like that much, especially right before “Hello Earth,” where those breaks into the Gregorian chant or whatever were so dope.
Zen: I agree. Plus, it’s really hard to compare after coming off “Waking The Witch,” which destroyed everything in its path.
Oscar: Yeah, that too.
Zen: My picks are the same, in the same order. But “Jig of Life” was the only tune I can say I didn’t like at all. The whole thing felt forced to me. Other two, I was just disinterested.
Zen: Favorite musical and lyrical moments?
Oscar: Musical is on “Hello Earth,” when the drums come in. I rock out every time. Also in “Hello Earth” she repeats some of the tune from “Running Up That Hill,” or at least a tune very very similar, and she repeats “get out of the waves, get out of the water” from “Waking the Witch” too, which I think is really cool. Lyrical I’m not sure, really. I think “Hounds of Love” is a great song in terms of lyrics, so I’ll just say that song. What are yours?
Zen: Musical moment would be in “Waking The Witch,” after the beat kicks in and Kate’s vocals come in totally fucked up and, I believe, reversed. I don’t think most of the time when people hit the reverse button they really achieve much except for giving the vibe of a wannabe acid trip. But when Kate did it I thought it defied the cliché, and was the perfect way to kick off a crazy song.
Oscar: Good choice.
Zen: Lyrical would be refrain in “Mother Stands For Comfort.”
“Mother stands for comfort.
Mother will hide the murderer.
Mother hides the madman.
Mother will stay mum.”
That song came as a shock to me and I think that refrain captures the strange, creepy vibe of that song. I also liked that watery bass sound in that song a lot.
Oscar: I agree with all of that.
Zen: Final score?
Zen: What keeps it from Haim level of greatness?
Oscar: Nothing on a musical level really, although I agree that she tends to the dramatic and suffers from it sometimes. Just that pound-for-pound, song-for-song, I like Haim .5 points more.
Zen: Makes sense.
Oscar: But I do think this album is quite an achievement. It’s made me want to listen to her other stuff.
Zen: Me too.
Oscar: I’ve heard she has some very different sounds from album to album.
Zen: Yeah, this actually wasn’t the album that Jesse Krakow, the host of Minor Music, recommended. His was Kate’s The Dreamer, which I will definitely be checking out.
Oscar: That’s the one right before this one I think. Apparently Björk and Big Boi both list The Dreamer as among their favorite albums ever.
Zen: That’s really interesting.
Oscar: The Dreaming, I’m sorry, not The Dreamer.
Zen: I can always count on you for good clarifications.
Oscar: Aw shucks. So what’s your score?
Zen: 8.4. I would need to listen to The Dreaming before labeling this a classic or something necessary for everyone to listen to, but the impact she created cannot be stated enough.
Oscar: I’m down with that analysis. Any final comments?
Zen: Broadway, look out for us.
Oscar: I like that.
Oscar: Spider-Man had how many lead actors get injured?
Zen: A plethora.
Oscar: OK well in that case, our goal has to be a plethora plus one.
Zen: Good goal. Another would be to install an actual ice skating rink on the stage. That is necessary.
Oscar: In “Waking the Witch,” when the demon voice yells at our lead actress I’m thinking maybe bursts of fire, and possibly he just eats her. Anyway, we can work this out another time. Good reviewing.
Zen: Fun times. Readers, feel free to weigh in with ideas for this tremendous show.
Oscar: Of course, that’s what our comments section is for.
Come back next week for our reviews of King Krule’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon and the Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole.