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Song of the Day – Kate Bush: “Wild Man”

After 12 years between The Red Shoes and Aerial, and five-and-a-half between Aerial and Director’s Cut, Kate Bush is acting like it’s 1978 all over again and releasing two albums in one year. Next month sees the release of 50 Words for Snow, Bush’s first album of all-new material in six years (this spring’s Director’s Cut was an album of reworkings of previous songs.) The lead single, “Wild Man,” premiered yesterday and marries the lush layered style and synth hooks of her ’80s peak with the low-key, mellow harmonies and instrumentation of her 2000s work. The result is a serious grower: where Bush’s spoken verses initially seem underwhelming, repeated listening reveals it to be another rich, alluring release from a true original.

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Filed under: Art, Culture, Music, Music video, Pop, , , , ,

If you were wondering what Kate Bush looks like these days…

… Then look no further.

Kate Bush is back this spring with Director’s Cut, an unusual package that brings together new versions of songs that appeared on her albums The Sensual World (1989) and The Red Shoes (1993), keeping the “best” elements of the existing tracks while re-imagining others. So far, so mysterious – that is until Amazon jumped the gun a little and posted a 30-second preview clip of the new “Deeper Understanding,” originally from The Sensual World. What emerged was a sultry-sounding new vocal from Bush singing the “I press execute” line followed by a jarring and, frankly, terrifying computerised voice in place of the original angelic chorus of Bush and the Trio Bulgarka. It is a mark of her artistic fearlessness that a 30-second clip of a six-and-a-half minute song (around two minutes’ extension from 1989’s original) can provoke the mostly negative reactions it has among Bush fans so far, but really it makes sense for a song about computers to have a digitised voice in there somewhere. It remains to be seen (or rather, heard) how the other six minutes follow.

It’s an odd project, definitely, but both of these records that Bush is revisiting came at difficult points in her life. With The Sensual World, Bush was struggling with studio fatigue, having rarely been out of the confinement of the recording atmosphere for the best part of a decade, and had the problem of following two landmark artistic triumphs in The Dreaming (1982) and, commercially as well, Hounds of Love (1985). Then, The Red Shoes was beset by personal issues as Bush split from her long-time partner Del Palmer and suffered through the death of her mother Hannah, contributing to one of her less focused records. Still, she has expressed the opinion that these records contain some of her best work – so it makes sense for her now, with the benefit of two decades’ hindsight, to return to tinker with them with a fresh new approach. Whether Bush stretches even further back and undertakes a similar project with her other records remains to be seen, but the very arrival of any new Bush release is cause for celebration, giving her propensity for large gaps between records.

And for those who are disappointed at the lack of new new material, the official word is that Bush is working on brand new material. It’s on its way, people! In the meantime, let’s look forward to this fascinating new project, due for release in mid-May.

Filed under: Culture, Music, News, Pop, , ,

Informative, in-depth, objective, respectful – Graeme Thomson’s Kate Bush bio is one to treasure

I loved this book.

Graeme Thomson deserves a huge amount of credit for not only conducting some (useful and insightful) research and interviews with key people, but for sculpting his work into a biography that is immensely readable, well-crafted, and genuinely engrossing. It’s a biography that goes pleasingly in depth about Kate Bush’s life and career without mining for needless gossip or tabloid tittle-tattle; instead, it’s a respectful yet objective look at one of our most fascinating, original, and talented creative artists – a fine line difficult to navigate, but one Thomson pulls off remarkably well.

Anyone with a genuine knowledge of Kate Bush will already know that the tabloid reports of a strange, reclusive, “witchy” character are laughably inaccurate and that the truth is more that she acts just as any normal person would – she does her job, and then she lives her life in private. It just happens to be that her ‘job’ is making music, which of course leads to publicity, naturally. After reading the book, you really get a sense of Kate Bush the person – warm, genuine, determined, normal, but not without the odd endearing eccentricity – alongside Kate Bush the artist – hard-working, experimental, committed. Thomson’s insights are well-judged and more than once I felt he was articulating exactly how I felt about her and her music but hadn’t been able to properly express. His writing style is accessible but sophisticated, lending the book the air of a proper critical analysis as opposed to some previous biographies, which felt like extended magazine articles.

The book is excellent throughout but a few episodes are memorable, such as the new interviews with old schoolfriends of Bush from the 1970s shedding some light on her childhood. The information about the album sessions and recording processes is fascinating, and even the most ardent Kate Bush fan would acknowledge that the book reveals some interesting insights that perhaps they did not know before. The list of interviewees is impressive – producers, record company men, musicians, dancers, friends – and it seems the only people who did not grant new interviews were Kate’s family and her longest collaborator, Del Palmer, perhaps understandably. Even so, without the input of the closest in her circle, the book feels deep, rich, and well-rounded. This is the biography that someone of Kate Bush’s stature deserved, and it more than delivers. There will not be a better one. Quite possibly the best rock biography I have read to date – a triumph.

Filed under: Books, Culture, Music, Pop, , , ,