She is known for her distinctive voice and extraordinary compositions, but Kate Bush is still a lot more than that. She is the Queen of Art Pop/Rock, in my eyes. I decided to write a “classic album review” for the first time, and what better than reviewing one of Bush’s masterpieces; “Hounds of Love.” It is almost 33 years old, but it’s still such an iconic album for not only Kate Bush but for the 80’s era in general. It was a commercial success. Even with the album being 3 decades old, it still sounds as unique, fresh and stunning. Hounds of Love is really a core part in Bush’s discography. With it being her fifth album, she really kept the listeners always there with her beautiful songs.
First song on the album and it starts the way that it ends too, which is really interesting as it keeps the same kind of momentum all the way through. “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” has a feel to it like no other, Kate Bush is aggressive and wanting to get her point across. It’s emotional and she sure does pour her heart out into every word she sings. She’s screaming out about making a deal with “god” to turn into another person. I wonder what made her sing about such a thing? Listening now in 2018, you can obviously tell that it’s quite an old song purely because the sounds were so unique and had never been done before, but if any artist were to use those eerie sounds in the charts today, it probably wouldn’t sell because it’s not “original”, you can instantly link it with Kate Bush. From her debut album, “The Kick Inside”, Kate captured her distinctive sound, and she’s always kept it locked away as the years have flown by.
The title track of the album “Hounds of Love’ is about being scared to fall in love and how it feels like being chased by a pack of hounds. Bush really does have a way with worlds, anybody else would just state falling in love as just like, well, falling in love! The drums in this really captures the ’80’s’ sound in a nutshell. Quite similar to what Phil Collins had created too. It’s an upbeat, sad song and very deep. “Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake, and I’ll be, two steps on the water” is about intending to move on/go forward, so maybe in Kate’s stage, she wanted to push forward and realising that “love” isn’t as scary.
“The Big Sky” is simply about being satisfied by simple pleasures, like when we were all kids and watched the clouds move into shapes in the sky. You can tell with this song how much Kate Bush was evolving at the time into the big production sound of the 1980’s. The track is simple, but arranged to have such a “big” sound, no pun intended. The drum beats looped are really effective and makes this song feel like a perfect motivational track. It makes me want to run and remember all the lovely little things in life. The fade out at the end is like a “everything must come to an end, but doesn’t mean that that’s a bad thing”. It’s a nice safe ending to what feels a BIG song.
Next up is one of my favourites of the album, “Mother Stands For Comfort”. It’s experimental and different to all the other songs on the LP so far. So far we’ve had a lot of art rock/pop, now we have Bush’s experimental progressive side coming out, which I adore. The lyrics tell a story about a mother’s dream to constantly protect her child. The fretless bass sound is dreamy and without it, the song would be lost. The phrasing of the lyrics are quite simple, but are layered with lovely instrumentation over the top to make this creepy sound. The ending is strange but really effective for the song.
Inspired by Peter Reich’s “A Book of Dreams” which explains his father’s arrest for contempt of court. Kate Bush found the book so moving that she wrote a song about it and called it “Cloudbusting”. Kate illustrates in the song the close relationship between the philosopher and his son, and she even told it from the point of Peter at an elder age. The orchestral sound of the song makes it have a professional manner and a lovely rich sound to it. The song drowns in heartache but it still has a big, warm sound to it. Dynamically, the song just keeps building which is hard to do, but the energy is always there. The song has a marching sound to it which is another great “motivational” aspect! The lines “but every time it rains, you’re here in my head” references the “cloud-buster.” Wilhelm Reich believed that he could store energy from the sky by making it rain, which indicates why his son Peter remembers his dad every time it rains. Later in the 1990’s Utah Saint’s sampled “I just know that something good is gonna happen” for their hit “Something Good” which I bet brings lots of nice royalties to Kate’s bank account.
“And Dream of Sheep” is simply about a lady drifting off to sleep in the water, where they can be alone and scared. The song begins side two of the album which is known as “The Ninth Wave”. Kate Bush described The Ninth Wave about “a lady who is alone in the water. It’s about their past, present and future keeping them alive all at once.” This song is probably the most powerful song on the album as it starts the iconic Ninth Wave. Also it’s purely just Kate, a piano and some weird sound effects. The song is only “2:46” long… it’s simple and short. I find this song quite similar to “This Woman’s Work” off Kate’s next album “The Sensual World”.
The second song of “The Ninth Wave” is called “Under Ice” which is about the dream that the lady in the water has. The lake is frozen over and everywhere is white. They’re all alone. They dream of skating along the ice and can see something moving underneath. The song itself is really interesting as it doesn’t have a chorus. It’s a short, concept song of what seems to be about being scared of maybe your own reflection? Very dark track.
“Wake up.” Firstly, what an amazing start to an incredible song. “Waking the Witch” is the first ‘hallucination’ that the lady experiences as she slowly starts freezing and running out of oxygen. There are three songs that experiences the lady having “hallucinations.” As I said before, the ninth wave features the lady’s “past, present and future” to guide her the way, Waking the Witch features the ladies past. The song is progressive and electronic. The glitches on Kate’s vocals are horrifying and really captures what “hallucinations” feel like. The concept behind the second part of her album is absolutely extraordinary. How a human being can think of arranging songs to create this masterpiece just completely blows my mind.
Legendary bass player Danny Thompson features on the next track; “Watching You Without Me”. It tells the story of the ladies’ “spirit” returning to the now unconscious woman in her home. Nobody can see her or know she’s there. This song is the “present hallucination.” She can see that her family are waiting for her and are worried. The track itself features glitches again like the previous song, chopped tracks and even reversed sounds, which is amazing for the 80’s as it was just being introduced into mainstream music. For such a sad, dark song, this has a loving warming sound to it. Maybe the sound is like that to reassure the “lady in the water” that things might get better?
“Jig of Life” is the third hallucination that the lady has, but this time this hallucination represents the future. The drowning woman is confronted by her future self, who tries to convince her to keep on fighting for their same life. The song definitely does make me jig and tap my feet, even with the dark atmosphere to it. This song is just another example of how diverse Kate Bush’s music can be. Her brother John Carder Bush even features at the end of the song and does a bit of “spoken word.”
At the beginning of “Hello Earth“, there’s a sample of a conversation between NASA and astronaut Dan Brandenstein on the space shuttle; Columbia. As deaths starts taking over the ladies body, she starts to drift away from herself and can see everything in a bigger picture, for example; can see earth itself, just like that scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” There’s a point in the song where everything changes and the lady is in the cat at night with her loved one asleep next to her. She can see something shooting across the sky. This makes me really think, could that be herself? Just like that scene in “Interstellar”!! This song is about the woman’s strength leaving her even though the rescue team are still attempting to bring her back. This track, in my eyes, is the most well put together track on the album purely because of the meaning behind it. Having the Male Georgian Choir featuring in the bridges really calms down everything that’s going on in the song.
As the last song on the album “The Morning Fog” concludes the Ninth Wave and tells how the woman survived her near-death experience. She promises to appreciate her life more as well as appreciating the ones around her. What a rollercoaster the second half of the album is. I remember the first time I sat down and really listened to this, I was getting a “Will she or won’t she” pass on to the other side? But she doesn’t, obviously, woo-hoo! This album motivates me to become a better person and be satisfied with the little things in life. We all know that life is really short when you think about it.
As a whole, the album has gone down in history as one of the best albums of all time and it definitely still stands there still. It’s one of my prized albums that I’ll always treasure. It’s warm and cold, a mixture of both to say the least, a mixture of emotions constantly, but it’s progressive and emotional. A true rollercoaster that I never want to get off.
Iconic. She even produced it all herself!
Kate Bush, you are the Queen of Art Pop/Rock.
Favourite Tracks: Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), The Big Sky, Mother Stands For Comfort, Cloudbusting, And Dream of Sheep, Waking the Witch, Watching You Without Me, Hello Earth.
Score – 9/10