DO BELIEVE THE HYPE: Kate Bush

In the latest Do Believe The Hype, Will Collins creates a playlist in an attempt to turn Pete Wild into a huge fan.

To begin – of course I know Kate Bush. Everyone knows Kate Bush, right? I’m familiar with some of the singles. I’ve never listened to an album even though I have, in my life, gone out with people who would describe themselves as Kate Bush fans. I’ve been in the vicinity of Kate Bush music a bit. There have been times when I’ve thought, hm, don’t mind that; and times when I have wanted to wrench whatever device was nearby playing her songs from wherever it rested and throw it out of the window. I should also say: when I was a teenager I had a dream that Margaret Thatcher had released an album of standards and she sang exactly the same way that Kate Bush does. Never quite managed to shake off that feeling (and it isn’t entirely helped by the knowledge that Kate once called Theresa May “wonderful”). But, you know, Stranger Things, resurgence of interest, in for a penny, in for a pound, I have agreed to let Will see if he can turn me into a Kate fan. Here goes nothing…

The playlist

‘Cloudbusting’
‘Deeper Understanding’ (original version from The Sensual World)
‘The Man with the Child in His Eyes’
‘Kashka from Baghdad’
‘Army Dreamers’
‘Hounds of Love’
‘This Woman’s Work’
‘Hello Earth’
‘King of the Mountain’
‘Running Up That Hill’

Do I believe the hype?

Let’s take it a song at a time shall we? ‘Cloudbusting’ kicks things off. I know this song. I like the “I just know that something good is going to happen” refrain. I like the instrumentation. It’s apparently inspired by Peter Reich’s memoir A Book of Dreams.

‘Deeper Understanding’ is new to me. Kate is a bit worried about how people are spending more time in the company of their computers rather than actual people (“I turn to my computer like a friend”). There’s apparently a director’s cut of the song in which Kate’s voice sounds like a robot. I’m glad I wasn’t sent that version. This falls firmly into the alright camp for me – I don’t object to having heard it but I won’t be in a hurry to hear it again.

Ahhh. ‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’. She wrote this song when she was 13, recorded it with Dave Gilmour at the age of 16. It’s tremendous. If there is an untapped well of songs like this I could see myself tumbling headlong into full on Kate worship. (And it’s worth pointing something out in contrast to ‘Deeper Understanding’: despite ‘The Man With the Child in His Eyes’ having quite lush instrumentation, everything feels necessary; ‘Deeper Understanding’ by way of contrast feels like Kate in a studio with a lot of big name session players fresh from jamming with the likes of Simply Red and Sade and everyone gets a chance to play. I’m hoping that session-player-itis doesn’t dominate the rest of the songs…)

‘Kashka from Baghdad’ falls firmly into the camp of Kate Bush songs that would have had me throwing devices out of the window. It’s from the Lionheart album she recorded when she was 19 and she was unhappy with the album. I’m a bit unhappy with ‘Kashka’ too. I’m reminded of when Pamela Stephenson did her Kate Bush impression. This feels like Kate at her kookiest.

‘Army Dreamers’ follows like much needed relief. It’s a dark, sad song in many ways (it’s about the effect of war, a mother grieving for a son etc) but recorded in waltz time gives it a strange ornate charm. It was also one of 68 songs banned from airplay during the first Gulf War.

‘Hounds of Love’ next. We all know ‘Hounds of Love’ don’t we? Classic Kate. It has a powerful urgency to it, sweeps you up, both lyrically (“I’ll take my shoes off and throw them in the lake!”) and musically. In a roundhouse sucker punch, we get ‘This Woman’s Work’ next – a song I have actually liked and listened to of my own volition for a good few years. It’s a beaut. My favourite Kate song of the songs I know. ‘Kashka from Baghdad’ feels like a long time ago at this point.

We get ‘Hello Earth’ next, another track from the Hounds of Love album. Wiki, interestingly, tells me the following: the chorale in ‘Hello Earth’ is a segment from the traditional Georgian song ‘Tsintskaro’, performed by the Richard Hickox Singers. It feels like one of Kate’s more theatrical songs. By which I mean to say that it’s somewhat overblown. It does at least allow me to gauge my tolerance for monk-like chanting. I am not tolerant of monk-like chanting.

‘King of the Mountain’ is the penultimate song on the list – originally released in 2005 and at that time her biggest hit in over a decade, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. It has a sort of dissonant electronic noise that recalls The Blue Nile which I like. Lyrically this is Kate wondering if Elvis is alive somewhere out there. There are worse things to write a song about. There is also a nice shonky guitar that kicks in at about the half way point. All told, not the worst Kate Bush song I’ve ever heard.

Aaaaaaand, of course we close things out with ‘Running Up That Hill’. It kicks off with a nice electronic sound that recalls the KLF to my ears. Kate’s vocal is supremely pretty. It twists and curls like smoke from a fire, by turns gentle and muscular. It’s a genuinely strange song but appealing in a way I can’t entirely fathom. It’s a great song to end the list with. Classic.

So: do I believe the hype? I certainly enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. If there was some kind of Kate Bush-ometer, I’d say Will has inched me a couple of inches along, from someone who appreciated her without really loving what she did to a slightly bemused, affable sense of “yeah, she isn’t bad and at times she’s genuinely thrilling”.

Words by Pete Wild