The Guardian - review of "King of the
City Woman - "Kate’s not given up yet" (the usual twaddle)
Top of the Pops - Review of "King of the Mountain"
Record Collector - "Kate's late, but worth the wait"
Daily Express - "It's bizarre — but Kate's quirks work"
Daily Mirror - "Kate: I'm No Weirdo"
The Times of London -"The Big CD"
BBC News - "Review: Kate Bush's Aerial"
The Observer - "Admit it, guys, she's a genius"
Q magazine - "Mother Superior"
Financial Times - album review
The Metro - "Everything you need to know about... Kate Bush"
Mojo - "And is there honey still for tea?"
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
Review of "King of the Mountain"
by David Stubbs
October 22, 2005
Looks a bit like Delia Smith these days, does Kate - you're half expecting this single to start with a drunken cry of "Where are you?" In fact, this sets out promisingly, hoving in like a sea fret, as a Citizen Kane-inspired lyrical theme takes shape. But then, in comes the chorus, "The wind is whistling", and it's like the giant, corporate epic rock propeller has been trundled onstage and activated as in pile the session drums, like a drunken Phil Collins gatecrashing a pleasant soiree.
Kate’s not given up yet
City Woman (from Reading Evening Post)
by Sharon Cook
October 25, 2005
The music biz is apparently in a frenzy over the revelation that a world-famous Reading recluse is about to release a new album. Yup, Kate Bush is rumoured to be almost back among us. Sharon Cook delves into the life of the raven-haired pop diva.
For more than a decade her neighbours have not set eyes on her.
Not surprising really, as Kate Bush lives on a small island, on the Thames, near Theale, just a few miles from Reading itself.
Like any self-respecting pop legend there are CCTV cameras guarding the wrought iron gates to the entrance of her multi-million pound Berkshire mansion and dense woods shield the house itself.
But what is probably the most remarkable thing about Kate – who gained accolades from across the world for her breakthrough hit Wuthering Heights in 1978 – is that she has not released a single note to the world since 1993. Her Garbo-ish tendencies have undoubtedly intensified her fame.
The 46-year-old is also known within the music business as ‘the barmiest bird in pop’.
Her obsession with privacy is legendary, but she has always retained an army of fans who remain utterly devoted. They must, by now, be faint with anticipation. One can’t imagine that she will require any publicity to sell the promised album. Within hours of it hitting the shelves the media will no doubt be as hooked as her fans. It will be a hit almost instantly.
And part of the reason for that is the enigma factor.
Having been seen in public just a handful of times in recent years – so we know she is still alive – Kate Bush remains the mystery she has always been. And that is fascinating to all of us. Particularly as, 25 years on from her initial success, the world is even more obsessed with fame and celebrities.
Kate was always different to her peers. She wrote The Man With the Child in His Eyes when she was just 13. She signed a contract with EMI records at 16 and immediately made it big when Wuthering Heights hit the number one spot.
But it was not a situation Kate could cope with. What teenager could? She was, quite literally, hurled into a frenzy of world tours and then pressured to come up with another album.
She responded by going to ground. Touring stopped. She worked in her own recording studio. By 21 she withdrew from the world at large.
Interviewed several years later Kate told her fans: "They (EMI) took me away from everything familiar and, four months later, wanted another record.
"I figured out then that music was a priority, not publicity. And that completely changed my life. I stopped doing all the things that were expected."
For such a young woman, she was incredibly focused. She set about concentrating on the things she cared about most – her family and her music.
Her fortune today is estimated at around the £25 million mark. Her dad, a retired doctor, is director of most of the companies she controls.
Kate has always been regarded as unusual and from comments made at the time Wuthering Heights was released it is not hard to see why she gained that tag.
She said at that time: "It was just fascinating me so much, it kept coming into my brain. I thought the only way to stop it bothering me was to write it down."
She was, of course, referring to the film version of Wuthering Heights she’d seen as a child.
Her birthday is the same as Emily Bronte’s and from seeing the film she wanted to be called Cathy.
In fact Kate reportedly signed herself as Catherine Earnshaw – the character’s full name – on the electoral register.
The world only found out about the birth of now six-year-old Bertie 18 months after he was born and, quite logically, she told her fans: "Far from secretive, I am just trying to be a good, protective mother and give him as normal a childhood as possible while preserving his privacy.
"Surely everyone can understand that?
"I hope you will understand how invaluable it has been to me to have a fulfilling, normal start to motherhood.
"Bertie is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He is my joy and I’m very happy and busy being a mum."
It was Kate herself who announced late last year that the new album would be released in 2005. No-one knows when.
But City Woman reckons anyone with Kate Bush’s views on protecting a private life for her, her partner, her son and the rest of her family is probably far more sensible than many of the other pop icons out there who have crashed and burned.
And isn’t her passion for music, rather than fame, refreshing in these days
of boy bands and so-called pop idols? Rock on Kate Bush.
Review of King of the Mountain
Top of the Pops
by Jenny S
October 24, 2005
Right pop kids, get yer thinking caps on for a quick lesson in pop amazingness. Although Her Royal Bushness isn't your usual quirky pop sproglett (in fact, in pop terms she's positively ancient at 47!), she paved the way for pretty much every kooky and thoroughly unique female singer since. Without her, avante-garde pop a la Blur, Prince and The Killers would not have existed and Tori Amos, Christina Aguilera and Alison Goldfrapp would probably have been serving you chips over the nearest Spam-U-Like counter. And did we mention that she wrote the best elasticy-throated pop song ever, 'Wuthering Heights', when she was only 19? Anyhow, 'King of The Mountain' - her first single release in 12 years - has the usual Bush trademarks stomped all over it. Soaring fruity vocals, thought-provoking lyrics, a driving rhythm and gorgeous electronic twiddlings make this a gem of a song. But if jiggling your booty and punching the air is your thing, you'll probably hate it!
(4 stars out of 5)
Kate's late, but worth the wait
A rare public sighting of Kate Bush before her lengthy, self-imposed exile
was at a Leicester Square cinema in late 1993. She turned up unannounced at the
London Film Festival to introduce a half-hour movie she'd made based around a
handful of songs from The Red shoes though her thunder was stolen by the
supporting attraction on the bill - the premiere of the Wallace & Gromit caper
The Wrong Trousers.
And Bush has chosen to break her silence just weeds after the big-eared boffin and his trusty canine sidekick made their full-length feature. The dynamic duo have been only slightly less unprolific in the interim years, and there is an interesting parallel to be drawn between the claymation Oscar-winners and one of this country's most respected songwriters.
Anyone familiar with Nick Park's work will be aware of the painstakingly meticulous frame-by-frame method of production, and it's not dissimilar to the Kate Bush approach to making records. It's a slow, often laborious process paying blinkered attention to even the tiniest detail, and it would come as no surprise to discover Bush taking days on end to perfect four bars of one song's bass sound, much like Park spending a week getting Gromit to raise an eyebrow.
Bush is in an elite group of high calibre artists who appear to have the luxury of limitless time when it comes to fashioning new material. No doubt the suits at EMI would have biked to have heard something math sooner, but Kate has apparently been left to her own devices. to retum when she's good and ready.
How have the nation's tastes developed? Don't bother asking Kate, because she doesn't seem to have been paying much attention. In simple terms, Aerial is nothing more or less than another Kate Bush album, choc-a-bloc with familiar motifs and the elaborate, sculpted music that made millions worship her in the first place. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because what she has delivered is probably her most wholly satisfying work since 1985's Hounds of Love.
In common with that landmark release, Aerial is split into two distinct 'acts', subtitled A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey. The first is perhaps the most varied and intriguing. kicking off with the single King Of The Mountain. which reads like a think-piece on the legacy of Elvis, albeit with frequent allusions to Citizen Kane "Why does a multi-millionaire fill up his home with priceless junk?" she asks at one point.
Pi is a fairly witty ode to an obsessive mathematician ("he does love his numbers"), to my knowledge the only song ever with a vocal refrain that goes to 12 decimal points, and featuring a pulsating organ intro that recalls The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Bush's continued fascination with historical figures gets an airing on Joanna. a beautifully textured wash of sound celebrating Joan Of Arc, that wouldn't be out of place on 1989's The Sensual World.
But if there is one highlight on the first 'act', it's probably How To Be Invisible, where 47-year-old Kate steps into the shoes of an adolescent wallflower, effortlessly revisiting the perspective of her early recordings as a precocious teen. It's all the more effective in 2005, a time when the media's bombardment of young girls pressured to conform to a body image of perfection has reached ridiculous levels.
A Sky Of Honey is a loose song cycle built around a painterly artistic theme, including a spoken word contribution from Rolf Harris. Another guest is more telling: Lol Creme the 10cc man who introduced ambient conceits to mainstream pop with I'm Not In Love. is integral in the wave of multi-layered voices that drift in and out of Sky's nine tracks. It may all be a bit too new agey for some ears. but it's presented in some style: it's Clannad with clout, Dido with depth.
Two songs work even better when taken outside the context of the cycle; Somewhere In Between. despite some awkward and uninspired lyrics. is particularly inventive. like a bossa nova Coldplay, while Nocturn boasts an atmospheric groove and has 'massiva hit single' written through it like a stick of rock.
So, has the world of Kate Bush changed all that much during her absence? Only very slightly, perhaps. but it's nothing we should worry about. This is a woman who has paved her own road from the start, with seemingly little interest in what the rest of the music business is up to. The sledgehammer marketing of Meat Loaf and Take That conspired to keep her last album from No. 1, so she'd be a fool to allow herself to be affected by the industry. Best that she doesn't bother looking at her supposed music con. temporaries, and opts instead to compete with singuIar, creative visionaries in other fiends of entertain. meat; a genius animation posse, for instance.
The Daily Express
"It's bizarre — but Kate's quirks work"
October 28, 2005
Ever since Kate Bush bleated: "Heathcliff, it's me, I'm Cath-eeee, I've come home" back in 1978, her status as British music's premier oddball genius has remained unchallenged.
Part wild-eyed witch woman, part old school English eccentric, Bush and her music have always been a curious mixture of the idiosyncratic, the quirky and the downright bizarre. For those who buy into her flights of musical fancy she's an artist, a genius and a feminist icon. But for those who can't quite work out what she's warbling about she's just kind of annoying.
Kate's first release in more than a decade does precious little to dispel the notion that she's a wee bit odd. The second song on this double album is a little ditty called Pi, which - yep, you guessed it - is about the number. At one point she starts to sing the numeral digit by digit, but mercifully stops after about 150 places which is a relief, seeing as this is a song that could, quite literally, go on for ever.
If that's not weird enough, on the fourth track, Mrs Bartolozzi, she begins to sing about a washing machine and the noises it makes. "Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy" she sings, before a chorus of "washing machine, washing machine, washing machine" takes over. Say what you like about Kate, but she is unafraid of appearing ridiculous. However, despite such wilful quirks, this is an album that gradually wins you over.
You might not end up loving it but it's hard not to be impressed by its vision and artistic integrity. The first CD, A Sea Of Honey, features in the main songs that revolve around domestic life, its everyday objects and the obvious happiness Bush has found by embracing motherhood. Here Bush proves to be a master at taking everyday things and transforming them into powerful symbols and lovely, poetic images.
The second CD, however, is the real treasure, with its extended song cycle about art, love and nature. At one point Roif Harris even pops up to sing a few lines. The lyrics, music, use of sounds and the way Bush manages to bend and shape her voice in this section all add up to create a truly moving piece of work that is relatively free of her usual annoying eccentricities.
Who'd have thought it? A Kate Bush album that's actually a pleasure to listen
Kate: I'm No Weirdo
The Daily Mirror
By Cameron Robertson
October 29. 2005
POP icon Kate Bush has broken a four-year silence to insist she's not "some kind of weirdo reclusive".
The singer, who spent 12 years making forthcoming album Aerial, told Mojo magazine: "I've felt privileged to be living such a normal life. It's so important to me to do the washing, do the hoovering." Kate, 47, lives on an island on the Thames in Berkshire with partner Danny McIntosh and son Bertie, seven.
She also admitted to making an "a***hole" of herself by asking the Queen for
her autograph during a music event at Buckingham Palace.
The Big CD
The Times of London
by Rob Chapman
October 29, 2005
Rob Chapman on the long-awaited Ariel
Twelve years is a long time in the pop world. In the period
since Kate Bush’s last album, the somewhat underwhelming The Red Shoes, entire
Brit-pop empires have risen and fallen, and a dance music revolution has
exploded, fragmented and fizzled away. Somehow, though, Bush stands outside such
temporal concerns in the strange soundworld of her own making. And now, finally,
Ariel is a double album and, like most doubles, it has its ponderous moments. Thankfully, it also contains half-a-dozen tracks that are as good as anything she has done, and its closing triptych, Somewhere In Between, Nocturn and Ariel, represents the most joyous and euphoric finale to an album that you will hear all year.
If the recent single and opening track, King of the Mountain, hinted at a newfound maturity in her voice, it also confirmed the increased sophistication of her lyrics. Who else inhabits the kind of skewed terrain where Elvis morphs into Citizen Kane? And who else would have written a homage to pi? “3.1415,” she coos over a rich bed of acoustic guitars. “926535,” she continues fetchingly.
During her long period of exile, a friend phoned to tell me that he had seen her in the street, gleefully reporting that “she’s starting to look like your favourite hippie aunt”. She’s starting to sound like it, too. The second half of Ariel abounds with twittering birdscapes, melting suns and artists who morph into their paintings, the whole shebang culminating with that extraordinary trio of songs in which Kate seems to merge with the birdsong. There really is no one quite like her.
There are moments on Ariel when you wish she would cut loose with the arrangements — which at times remain far too linear and rooted in a soundscape that she hasn’t tampered with significantly since the 1980s — and collaborate with a Massive Attack or a Future Sound of London.
But all is forgiven the moment you hear a song such as Mrs Bartolozzi, in which a life of domestic drudgery is suddenly transformed into something magically sensual just by watching a blouse and a pair of trousers intertwining in a washing machine. Shine on you crazy Hotpoint-wielding diamond.
(4 stars out of 5)
Review: Kate Bush's Aerial
Kate Bush releases her first album in 12 years next week but has it been worth the very long wait?
When EMI invites a group of journalists to the Royal Academy of Music, in London, for a one-off listen to Kate Bush's new album, they are sending a clear signal - this album is not to be dismissed lightly.
Aerial is in two distinct halves - the first side, A Sea of Honey, is a collection of distinct, highly personal, sometimes impenetrably personal, songs.
Side two, A Sky of Honey, is an old-fashioned concept album - complex, layered, perhaps pretentious, but also a dazzling aural masterpiece.
A Sea of Honey has seven wildly different songs which touch on aspects of her daily life, both public and personal.
Single King of the Mountain opens the album full of swelling synthesizers and pounding beats and with its almost cryptic lyrics sets the tone for side one.
All of the songs have a swirling, almost uncontrolled creativity as if Bush has had these songs bottled up for more than a decade.
Her voice escapes, rather than emerges, in that familiar part-piercing, part-haunting tone that uniquely can carry across consonants and vowels with seductive ease.
Bertie, about her young son, has a simple, pleasing folk melody but lyrically feels slightly mundane.
She sings: "Here comes the sunshine, here comes the son of mine. Here comes everything, here comes a song for him."
"You bring me such joy. Then you bring me more joy," she recites, almost unconvincingly.
How to be Invisible is side one's stand out track, with a real sense of menace in its driving beat.
"I found a book on how to be invisible. On the edge of the labyrinth," she sings.
The strangest song on the whole album is Mrs Bartolozzi, a plaintive wail seemingly about domestic chores.
"Washing machine, washing machine, washing machine," she cries. Listening to this, I felt like I was trapped inside the washing machine on the spin cycle.
The final song of side one, A Coral Room, is a deeply moving elegy about her mother's death that is so private it feels almost intrusive to listen in.
Seven songs in and it seems a poor return on a 12-year wait. It also gives little clue to the sheer majesty of side two.
A Sky of Honey is, in a sense, a lyric poem set to music. Full of lush, fecund melodies which swing from jazz to rock, it is threaded through with bird song and chatter and feels distinctly organic and earthy.
There is also a painterly quality to the nine linked songs, a feeling which is enhanced by the appearance of Rolf Harris who both speaks and sings - thankfully briefly - on two tracks.
Side two is the album Pink Floyd might have made if Kate Bush had been their lead singer and lyricist in 1979.
Many people will hate the concept album feel to the songs and it is an acquired taste but is both sonically and lyrically a fine achievement.
It takes the listener on a journey - from a young boy's innocent statement of "Mummy, daddy, the day is full of birds" to a dynamic conclusion more than 40 minutes later where Kate Bush herself seems to have become the birds and takes flight.
"I want to be high up on the roof," she sings.
Often playful, Bush seems aware of the reaction some listeners will have.
"What kind of language is this? Tell me are you singing?" she asks.
Musically the nine songs of side two - which are parts of a whole rather than distinct tracks - are splashes of piano, bass and drums, layered with 1980s synthesizers which give the album a retro quality.
It is a very English album, with the rural feel of a John Betjeman or AE Houseman poem.
"All of the birds are laughing. Come let's all join in," she sings as her voice emerges from the sound of birdsong.
A Sky of Honey is a celebration of song itself, which has a child's joyful lack of inhibition about it - Kate Bush is heard laughing freely towards the end while a young child, possibly her son, is heard several times.
Wild guitars, pounding drums, dashing across the left and right channels of speakers, carry the album to its conclusion where both bird chatter and the sound of a cuckoo rise and then fade away.
It is difficult to know how successful the album will be - certainly it
is not for the iPod generation - but Aerial stands alongside The Hounds of
Love and The Kick Inside as her finest work.
Admit it, guys, she's a genius
by Kitty Empire
October 30, 2005
Kate Bush means a lot to a lot of people. There are gay men who thrill to her rococo sensibilities, who repay her early endorsement of their sexuality with worship. There are straight men who fancied her in her 1980s leotard and found the songs fetching, too. For me, Kate Bush was always a trump card when the tiresome 'question' of female artistic genius came up.
There are many male music fans out there - and just a smattering of male music journalists - who believe quite matter of factly that Damon Albarn wrote Elastica's first album; that Kurt Cobain penned all Courtney Love's songs; that artistic production is self-evidently a guy thing. Before disgust stopped me getting dragged into these skirmishes, I had a ready arsenal of Girl Greats - Patti Smith, Bjork, Nina Simone, Delia Derbyshire, Polly Harvey, and so on. And yet, there would often be some caveat why genius eluded my candidates (ripped off Dylan etc). Until we would get to Kate. Female genius? Kate Bush. End of.
Aerial, the first Kate Bush album in a young lifetime (12 years), re-establishes the fact. It is extraordinary - jaw-dropping, no less. It's also tearjerking, laugh-out-loud funny, infuriating, elegiac, baffling, superb and not always all that great. Her beats are dated, for instance; unchanged since the Eighties. For a technological innovator with the freedom of her own studio, Bush's whole soundbed really could do with an airing. And there's a sudden penchant for heady Latin rhythms here that sits a little awkwardly, even for this enthusiastic borrower of world music.
More problematically, however, Bush's whimsies have never been quite so amplified. If you thought the young Bush prancing around to Bronte was a little de trop, this album is not for you. There's a song about a little brown jug and one about a washing machine (both, though, are really about other things). There are several passages where Bush sings along to birdsong, and one where she laughs like a lunatic. Rolf Harris - Rolf Harris! - has a big cameo.
But Aerial succeeds because it's all there for a reason. And because the good stuff is just so sublime. 'King of the Mountain', Bush's Elvis-inspired single, is both a fine opener and a total red herring. Bush's juices really get going on 'Pi', a sentimental ode to a mathematician, audacious in both subject matter and treatment. The chorus is the number sung to many, many decimal places. It's closely followed by a gushing ode to Bush's son, Bertie, that's stark and medieval-sounding. The rest of disc one (aka A Sea of Honey) sets a very high bar for disc two, with the Joan of Arc-themed 'Joanni' and the downright poppy 'How to Be Invisible' raising the hair on your arms into a Mexican wave.
Disc two, subtitled 'A Sky of Honey', is a suite of nine tracks which, among other things, charts the passage of light from afternoon ('Prologue') to evening ('An Architect's Dream', 'The Painter's Link') and through the night until dawn. Things get a little hairier here.
The theme of birdsong is soon wearing, and the extended metaphor of painting is laboured. But it's all worth it for the double-whammy to the solar plexus dealt by 'Nocturn' and the final, title track. In 'Nocturn', the air is pushed out of your lungs as you cower helplessly before the crescendo. 'Aerial', meanwhile, is a totally unexpected ecstatic disco meltdown that could teach both Madonna and Alison Goldfrapp lessons in dancefloor abandon. It leaves you elated, if not a little exhausted. After the damp squib that was The Red Shoes, it's clear Bush is still a force to be reckoned with.
The problem, though, with female genius - for many men at least - is that very frequently it is not like male genius. And with its songs about children, washing machines going 'slooshy sloshy', Joan of Arc, Bush's mother, not to mention the almost pagan sensuality that runs through here like a pulse, Aerial is, arguably, the most female album in the world, ever. There's an incantation to female self-effacement that rewrites Shakespeare's weird sisters: 'Eye of Braille/ Hem of anorak/ Stem of wallflower/ Hair of doormat'. Even the one about maths is touchy-feely. But the artistry here is so dizzying, the ambition and scope so vast, that even the deafest, most inveterate misogynist could not fail to acknowledge it. Genius. End of.
by Mark Blake
December 2005 issue
12 years on, still having watery sex
How disorientating musical life must be for Kate Bush. Twelve years since she last made an album and over 25 since she toured, has any other chart topping pop star remained so remote from their audience, their record company and even the world?
Perhaps she has us all fooled, but now that it's finally here, Aerial sounds as if it was created in monastic isolation and that Bush hasn't listened to another modern rock album since making 1993's The Red Shoes. The romantically inclined might imagine it being crafted in a cobwebbed stately home, when our heroine wasn't busy dashing about, brandishing a candelabra looking for fairies. Left alone to do what she wants, when she wants, Kate Bush enjoys a freedom unrivaled by any of her peers. There's not another songwriter in the world that could have made a record like this. They wouldn't have been allowed.
You could have built one great Kate Bush album out of the best parts of The Red Shoes and 1989's more thematic The Sensual World. Aerial is far removed from the former's grab bag of disjointed songs; reassuring, as few do barmy concepts as well as her. Disc one includes seven songs under the main title of A Sea Of Honey, while disc two's A Sky Of Honey is given over to one marathon composition. Seas, skies sugary comestibles...committed Katewatchers can while away the winter nights joining the dots between Aerial and songs on her previous albums. It's all here (again): cities under water, the harnessing of sexual energy, the elemental power of Mother Nature; lots of watery, windswept shagging, then.
King Of The Mountain rallies the troops in a leisurely march heavenwards, name-checking Elvis in a voice less mannered than of old. The song smoulders and the same trick works again on How To Invisible, all bare musical bones rattling behind lyrics touching on some never quite specified fear waiting "at the end of the labyrinth".
The Red Shoes closed with You're The One, a morbid-sounding chronicle of a failed relationship. Life seems to be better now, thanks in part to the birth of her son, Bertie, celebrated here in a song of the same name. There's a sense of unself-conscious joy exploding out of this rather stately madrigal, but the sweet lyric is akin to being forced to look too long at other people's baby pictures.
When real life creeps back in elsewhere, it gets a welcome twist. Mrs Bartolozzi takes a washing machine and its mundane contents, subverting domestic drudgery into a metaphor for something more exciting. By the song's "swishing, swoshing" spin cycle, Bush has tumbled Allce In Wonderland-style into the Hotpoint and ended up "wading into the surf" where "fish swim between my legs". Earlier, on π, she counts down numbers against spidery keyboard fills and an elastic bassline, sounding like a female-fronted Talk Talk or a telephone sex line for kinky mathematicians.
Jazz drummer Peter Erskine is among those on the payroll here but those with a dog's hearing may spot the odd electronic drum around the place. Nevertheless, Joanni is the only song that sounds as if it began life in the '80s, with the ghost of Peter Gabriel III haunting its verses. On the first disc's closing track, A Coral Room, though, Bush proves she can excel with just her voice and Gary Brooker's piano as tools. Here, she spins a tale of an Atlantis-style sunken city into the memory of, presumably, her late mother. It's a spellbinding performance and the equal of anything on 1985's revered Hounds Of Love.
For everything-but-the-kitchen-sink thrills, though, there is still the nine-part A Sky Of Honey. Bush embarks on another quest, pulling the listener under water and up mountains, this time with twittering birdsong, children's voices, maniacal laughter, a jazz rumba and even a spoken-word turn from Rolf Harris , building in the manner of vintage Kate Bush - Cloudbusting, The Big Sky, Breathing - into an overblown spine-tingling denouement; this time with Danny McIntosh playing a guitar solo that will put most in mind of Bush's mentor, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. "Could be we are here, could be in my dream," she declares as the piece winds to its explosive conclusion. And it's a statement that encapsulates the never-never land invented on Aerial. You could lose yourself for days here. The world is a better place with Kate Bush in it. She really should do this sort of thing more often.
(4 stars out of 5)
By Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
October 31, 2005
Kate Bush's new album, her first since 1993's The Red Shoes, does her reputation as one of pop's great eccentrics no harm. On one song she recites pi to the 114th decimal place. Another track hinges on her repeatedly singing the words "washing machine". Elsewhere she duets with birds, communes with Joan of Arc and invents a spell for invisibility. Oh, and Rolf Harris performs a guest turn as an artist whose painting is ruined by rain.
This is indeed a strange brew. But we do Bush's music a disservice if we simply revel in its unusualness. Ever since she imprinted herself on the public mind as a leotard- wearing teenager singing "Wuthering Heights", it has been easy to exoticise her as otherworldly and enigmatic: a child-woman with an uncanny voice and curious aversion to celebrity. Her reclusive nature (she rarely gives interviews and gave up playing live after her first tour in 1979) and the long hiatus since her last album encourage us to imagine her as an obsessive, lonely genius, as does the mystique surrounding Aerial, whose appearance has been the subject of much hearsay and anticipation.
The true circumstances of its making appear more mundane. Bush's retirement from music after The Red Shoes was partly due to motherhood: her new songs are enraptured with themes of domesticity and family life. Also, The Red Shoes wasn't terribly good: for the first time in her career Bush sounded dated, like someone stranded in the 1980s. Perhaps she needed time to rediscover her talent for making music that was ambitious, literary, sensual and deeply singular. Or was that talent irrevocably lost, as so many pop stars discover in middle age?
Thankfully Aerial proves otherwise. At first listen - which was all I was allowed as pre-release exposure to the album has been strictly rationed - it comes across as richly satisfying and brilliantly conceived.
Split into two sections, the first, "A Sea of Honey", opens with a song cautioning against the cult of celebrity, "King of the Mountain", in which Bush sings about Elvis Presley. "How To Be Invisible", the closest the album gets to straightforward rock, makes explicit her distaste for fame, though a desire for privacy hasn't inhibited her from writing songs about her personal life. "Bertie" is a faux-Elizabethan ditty in praise of her son: a curio, but touching. "A Coral Room" refers to her mother's death.
The centrepiece of Aerial's first section is "Mrs Bartolozzi", a song about washing clothes whose lyrics move with astonishing deftness between domesticity, intimacy and eroticism. Piano-led, it pushes to the fore the 47-year-old's voice, which sounds as fluidly distinctive as ever. Her vocals may have lost some of their old wildness (and with it the air of melodrama that used to hover over her music), but they have also become fuller, more mature. The music, too, is contemplative: piano and vivid string arrangements predominate.
"A Sky of Honey", the album's second suite of songs, opens with dawn birdsong and young Bertie piping up to tell his parents that the birds sound like they're speaking. The following tracks develop this theme of nature and culture (this is when Rolf, the painter with the rainy canvas, appears), set within the context of the passing of a day. The music ebbs and flows; the mood of the lyrics is celebratory.
Having begun with her son speaking, it ends with a track welcoming sunrise. Thumping beats, hazy guitars and joyous singing, including peals of laughter, make this Aerial's most upbeat song. It is an album about renewal: the daily renewal of the sun and her own renewal by her son.
Everything you need to know about... Kate Bush
by Keith Watson
November 11, 2005
What? You mean that crazy-voiced girl who sang Wuthering Heights is
having another crack at the pop thing? Isn't she getting on a bit?
Show some respect. Kate Bush is our greatest living pop icon - at least according to the broadsheets greeting the imminent release of her new album, Aerial, with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for the Second Coming. Although, true, 47 is somewhat stately by today's shallow pop standards.
But I thought she'd given up making records?
So did her legion of devoted fans. When, in 1993, the less-than-prolific Kate - eight albums in 27 years - released her last album, The Red Shoes, John Major was Prime Minister, Graham Taylor was England manager and Simon Cowell was just a bad dream nobody had had yet.
Blimey, so what's she been up to, then?
Your guess is as good as ours. Notoriously publicity-shy, Kate guards her privacy ferociously and has only toured once, way back in 1979. In her early days, she'd get spotted at modern dance events at The Place in London - check out her videos - but now she divides her time between secluded homes on the Thames and the wild and windy moors of Devon, where she bought her very own Wuthering Heights last year for £2.5million - a million over the asking price.
Doesn't she get lonely?
Heavens, no. Family is all to Kate and she's been devoted to raising Bertie, her son with musician partner Danny Mcintosh, out of the spotlight. Bertie is seven and yet he's never been photographed in the
public eye. Something of a miracle in the age of the paparazzi.
So this Aerial... Is it any good?
Rest easy. Kate hasn't gone all death metal on us. Insiders who've had a sneak listen - record label EMI is guarding it like the crown jewels - reckon it's like Kate's never been away. Although some got confused between Aerial and Ariel because there's a song about a washing machine.
She's still barking, then?
Like a hound of love.
And is there honey still for tea?
by Jim Irvin
December 2005 issue
Her first album in 12 years is a two-disc epic, enthuses Jim Irvin.
Illustration by Fiona Wylie.
Instant MOJO Classic (5 stars out of 5)
TO SUM up: Kate Bush is the greatest living British artist in song and this is her masterpiece.
Regular readers may appreciate that I'm not one to traffic in hyperbole, but I can't put it in weaker terms. Those are the facts.
To give the latter some context: I was granted two complete listens to this lengthy work in EMI's newly installed review suite. I dislike — and resent — having to review music under such conditions and was dreading the environment colouring my opinion of the music. But the coffee wasn't bad, the biscuits were good, and there was just me and the guy who sits in the room to make sure you don't upload the album with specially adapted spectacles or anything. A few minutes into the second run-through my eyes closed, all outside stimulus was forgotten and I caught myself thinking: "Maybe this music is all I need". Because, for the duration of Aerial at least, it is Kate Bush's world and you just revel in it.
Aerial is a double album. Disc 1 is a collection of seven songs under the title A Sea Of Honey. Disc 2 is a seamless suite divided into nine parts under the title A Sky Of Honey.
Aerial is not flawless. None of her records are. Kate takes chances, and her worldview is so particular she cannot hope to please everyone all the time. But where, for example, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes might be considered spotty collections with frequent flashes of staggering beauty, Aerial seems less vertiginous in its highs and lows, more consistently engrossing in the manner of Hounds Of Love. Yes, there's the odd moment of audacious silliness, one should expect no less. But if you still believe she's the ululating fruitcake they mocked on Not The Nine O'Clock News, well, she left all trace of that behind at least five albums and 20 years ago.
So what does Aerial sound like? Don't expect a rock'n'roll record. There's no chaos. It's all exquisitely sung, played and judged. Any loucheness is more Nöel Coward than Velvet Underground. Any bombast is more Elgar than Radiohead. You'll gather, therefore, that her trademark misty Britishness is present, stirring some long-dormant musical sense of heritage, in the same way Pink Floyd or Genesis might once have done. Aside from, perhaps, Ray Davies, Kate is the sole trader left in such a market. But Aerial is neither prog rock, Brit pop nor folk music; it is pure Kate, in all her wonky splendour, invoking parquet floors, washing lines and skylarks, Brief Encounter on Sunday afternoon TV, wood pigeons and crumpets. Cricket pavilions of sound, if you like. Sure, there's something middle-class about it, slightly fusty; something arcane glimpsed through a leaded window, but also something bizarrely avant-garde, refreshingly out of step with the booty-proferring noughties. I love the idea of that fervent Kate Bush fan, Big Boi out of OutKast, digging this music that's as curious and colloquial as Battenburg cake, finding Kate's wack world as compelling as others find his.
A Sea Of Honey flows in on King Of The Mountain, the single, in which Kate, in a quivering voice (a homage?), wonders if Elvis is still alive in some snowbound realm where mysteries dwell, happily sledging down on a mountainside on Kane's Rosebud. She lets this happen over an opaque membrane of sound, which is later embellished with some skanky guitars. The drums arrive late and loud. King Of The Mountain suggests that Aerial will be pleasingly spare. Indeed it is, much of it simply piano with orbiting atmospherics akin, again, to Hounds Of Love. The baggage which spoilt The Red Shoes — the '90s clatter, the lashings of fretless bass, Lenny Henry — has left the building.
Track two is called Pi. Guess how the refrain goes? That's right: "3.141592635897932..." (to 112 decimal places. Genius.) Bertie — arranged as a sort of gavotte — is a touching tribute to Kate's son, now seven years old, a reason, maybe, for both Aerial's tardiness and its palpable love of life. The beautiful Mrs Bartolozzi is one of Kate's signature portrait songs, its central figure a woman duty-bound to clean a house, who slips into hymn-like reverie over a new washing machine. How To Be Invisible is a great song with a possible hint of His Dark Materials, describing a secret recipe for not being seen. (It involves a pinch of keyhole, eye of Braille and hem of anorak). Spooky backing vocals resemble wind whistling through a '30s Hollywood soundtrack. Joanni appears to be a foot soldier's love song to Joan of Arc — though I can't be sure — and features a serene string arrangement by the late Michael Kamen, one of his last assignments.
Anyone who has sat transfixed by This Woman's Work or Moments Of Pleasure will shudder with bittersweet trepidation as they hear the opening chords to A Coral Room, ushering in Kate's uncanny gift for reporting from the emotion-boggling frontier where love and grief embrace. So few artists go there. Or, more precisely, take you there. A Coral Room requires you pack a big hankie.
And so few artists reward themselves the freedom to roam around their imagination in the way Kate Bush does. Her vast, innate sense of romance and drama is perfectly measured throughout these songs. There's even better to come.
A Sky Of Honey does everything a Kate fan requires. A pastoral whimsy about, I think, God creating a summer's day — with God as a painter (Rolf Harris, cast to type) — while two lovers tryst again like they did last summer. Something like that; there's a pervading sense of nostalgia, weather, simmering desire and warm evening colours, anyhow. The song of blackbirds inspires the great lyric to Sunset: "Who knows who wrote that song of summer/That blackbirds sing at dusk/Where suns sets in crimson red and rust/Then climb into bed and turn to dust". The track slips unexpectedly out of its jazzy robe into a racy flamenco outfit, the soothing coo of pigeons mutates into "The sea of honey, the sky of honey!", and the album slides into the stunning final sequence with the shivery duet Somewhere In Between, the sexy, transcendent Nocturn and the title track, wherein the lovers arrive at nirvana on a guitar solo.
It was quite a way to pass an autumn afternoon. The first time, I was charmed, intrigued, a little perplexed. The second time, I was thrilled, moved, ravished. What does that remind you of? I can't wait to try it again.
– Aerial is Kate's first album since The Red Shoes in 1993.
– Guest backing vocalists include Lol Creme of 10cc and Procol Harum's Gary Brooker.
– There are cameo appearances by Kate's son Bertie, singer Michael Wood and didgeridoo player Rolf Harris, in a speaking role. Rolf also contributed to The Dreaming in 1982.
– A Coral Room
(5 stars out of 5)
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds