Sunday, 5 May 2013

Desert Isalnd Discs 10 Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

10 Hounds of Love by Kate Bush 1987

At 20 I was a bit old to have a schoolboy crush but Kate Bush about this time (even in the strange flared grey trouser thing she wore when performing Running up that Hill) had me smitten.

Since buying Hounds of Love I went back to get the earlier lps and everything seems a run up to this lp. I still could take or leave the first 3 lps , The Dreaming is a big step forward but lacks a bit of focus. It is with Hounds of Love where is all comes together.

The production, especially of side 1 is a bit dated ( a sound she seemed unable to fully shake off , with 2005's King of the Mountain sounding like it could have come from these sessions, until 50 Words for Snow)

I probably wouldn't have bought the lp if the lead off single hadn't been so dam strong. I can distinctly remember seeing it on Wogan. If you are going to mime , at least do it with some imagination

The backing vocals alone didn't really sound like anyone else at the time. With female singers nowdominating the charts it is difficult to remember how unique Kate Bush was

However even better was to come.

Cloudbursting was inspired by a book written by Peter Reich about his father who invented the Cloudbursting machine of the title claiming he could form clouds and create rain. He bought 160 acres in Maine to experiment in, but was arrested by the Us authorities for contempt of court and died a few months into his 2 year sentence aged 60.

The video is a small piece of cinema with the wonderful Donald Sutherland as the father and Kate Bush playing the son (not altogether convincingly but that's not really the point). Lots of great small touches marry the music and the images.

When the lp came out , Running Up That Hills kicked things off , we then get the warning cry from Night of the Demon "Its in the trees its coming" and one of the other big 4 singles from side one

Despite the complexity of songs subjects (and we haven't even got to side 2s concept yet) , the theme that runs through the lp is the oldest of all pop songs ,love - Fear of Love in Hounds of Love , overwhelming all consuming love in Running , love of a son for his father in Cloudbursting , love of a Mother for her son in Mother Stands for Comfort and the love of life in Big Sky

 Big Sky is the weakest track on side one and runs out of steam a bit towards the end but like the video it is one of the few times that she lets rip and seems to be having fun

So we get to side 2 and the 7 song 9th wave. It's a concept in the loosest sense about a girl lost at sea. This is where the samples really work and add so much to each song rather than just being window dressing.

The cycle starts with the girl fighting off sleep with only the light on her inflatable jacket providing any kind of comfort.( the beautiful Dream of Sheep) . She falls into a sleep with dreams of being trapped under ice (Under Ice) . The girl's subconscious takes her back in time as various voices from her past try to wake her up, until her mind makes the link to  the old persecution of drowning alleged witches (Waking the Witch). She then drifts back to present day and imagines her home and the love of her family (Watching You Without Me). The girl next gets a visitation from her future self telling her she cant die ,she has to let her future self live (Jig of Life) . We then zoom skyward as the girl contemplates her insignificance (Hello Earth) . Finally the girl is brought back to land , back into her life with that theme of love again the redeemer (Morning Fog) with the lp finishing with

"I tell my mother
I tell my father
I tell my lover
I tell my brother
How much I love them"

Side 2 saw a level of creativity that for me would only be matched again with the 2nd disc of Aerial some 20 years later.

It is a mark of how good the lp is that she couldn't find space for one of the best things she has ever recorded the piano ballad Under the Ivy which was relegated to a b side.

For a much fuller and more articulate comment on the lp Graeme Thomson's book Under the Ivy is well worth a read


  1. Funny, when this came out it seemed like a guilty pleasure. Not sure but I suspect that at the time 'serious' female songwriters were a rarity and therefore an unusual engagement. 'Running up that Hill' was as breathless as the title suggested but it was the wonders of side 2 that was so compelling. Easy to get lost in it. I need to reappraise Aerial; I think I only played it once; I know that you and Seamus admire it.

    1. Patti Smith; Joni Mitchell; Joan Armatrading; Carole King; Joan Baez.... need I go on Trev, she wasn't the first.
      Aerial is certainly worth getting to know. All to easy to let albums moulder unheard when they don't bite immediately.

    2. I think that Bush was in a different genre/league from those singer songwriters Seamus. The 'Guilty Pleasure' was that she was pin up and prodigy AND in the charts. Production values were as important as the muse to her, maybe instead of 'serious' I should have called her visionary.
      There was an Englishness about her that was nowt to do with tin pan alley or the traditions of 'singer/songwriters'. A whiff of 'prog rock' about her industry...

    3. Sorry, Trev, knew you meant something else but couldn't resist the comment. She seems to synthesise so much, from folk rock, to classical, to prog, to art rock (Roxy/Sparks). Love to hear her cover This Town Ain't Big Enough. She seemed to find common ground with Peter Gabriel. She remains though, essentially an original.

    4. Her old self could have hit those shrill High Sparks easy... I actually prefer her voice now and, I know it's less innovative, less experimental, but I still rate the warmth of 50 Words for Snow, even as the ice is melting.
      I often wonder if Kate knew the music that she was making, or was she just one page ahead of the class? the ambition seemed so wild how could her vision be focussed? I'm really looking forward to snuggling down with Aerial...

    5. I agree Trev I like her voice now more than the early recordings.
      Good list Seamus but try it for the mid 80s

  2. Always thought her a bit of a flake, a cute flake. Babooshka, Babooshka ya, ya... But I did buy this album, and played side one especially a lot. Unfortunately, I only updated to 'The Whole Story' on CD. Also have 'Red Shoes' & 'Snow', but after all the raves I've seen, I've got to revisit and do homework to do on "what Kate did next..."

    #10 - BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - "BORN TO RUN" (1975)

    - Very torn on this one. 'Wild & The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle' was my early intro to the Boss, and holds perhaps my favorite tune of his next to "Jungleland", the gentle epic "New York City Serenade." And 'Darkness' for years was my favorite album. I saw him live in '78 when it came out, and that performance was the most electrifying thing I've ever witnessed. 3 1/2 hours of wiry, sweaty madman Bruce's infinite passion & energy spilled out all over the stage, with a pumped band feeding off that inspiration. Unforgettable. But these days 'Darkness' seems a bit too grim & rocky? So I've gone with the bloody obvious. Not much to be said... It IS a masterpiece.

    Most folk know BTR by heart, so I'll just tag on the subtle beauty that is "NYC Serenade" for those who've missed it...
    NYC Serenade:

  3. Hi Trev - if you are going to revisit Aerial go for disc 2 it is pretty unique. You are right re female singer songwriters at the time - I remember Annie Lennox being nominated for a brit without having released a record for a couple of years!

    Hi Tim - I'm a Brucie novice - I haven't really got it (it all seemed just too ... well american for me)but I haven't listened to much. I guess I should start with this lp and see where I go

    1. David, if you are going to try Bruce I'd go for, in this order:
      - Wild the Innocent and the East St Shuffle (loose, Van Morrison influenced, passionate)
      - Born to Run (brilliantly focussed raw energy; wide eyed, romantic, dynamic, cinematic)
      - Darkness on the Edge of Town (angry, bitter, heartbreaking resignation)
      These were albums 2-4 in order and are his best albums by a mile. As TT says he gets a bit grumpy and bombastic from here on. Half of The River is fine. Pass on 'Born in the USA'. After that there are moments of quiet majesty and some fine pop highlights; he still remains one of the greats for me. Integrity to the max...

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    3. David, as someone who I know loves America, how can Bruce be "too American" for you? Diners, factories, blue collar heroes, "life's a highway" etc. Darkness is definitely my favourite and a great starting point. Such a strong album that he gave Patti Smith 'Because The Night' and left it off (though its on the recent reissue).
      He's also recorded 3 great Country albums (Tom Joad, Seeger Sessions and Nebraska, my 2nd fave lp)
      Admittedly, my man crush for Bruce just keeps growing, right from laughing when Reagan tries to appropriate Born In The USA without actually listening to it, to the stripped down version of The Rising at Obama's inauguration, the interview with Neil Strauss in his book, to this week in Norway when he played an 8 song acoustic set as the doors opened for his arena gig so people who arrived early to find their seats saw the support act of Bruce, supporting the main act, errr.....Bruce! - The Bounty Hunter (still can't work out how to sign in!)

    4. Nice to meet you Bounty Hunter.
      Listening to 'Darkness' loud this morning once the neighbors are up...
      It still excites me; remember shaking like a sh*tting dog with excitement when it was first released after a (was it really 3 years?) legal stuff that stalled its release after Born to Run.
      Wasn't disappointed. If you brought the recent remaster of Darkness you'll have seen the old footage of the band playing the album plus a new performance behind closed doors which is as serious as shingles; no goofing for the camera here. Riveting stuff.
      I'll take a look at the Neil Strauss book; read so little on The Man as wanted to keep away from the trivia; my own myths are formulated...

  4. I've never been into Kate. She reminds me of an ex of mine that loved her and was forever inflicting her warblings on me.I'll skip!
    # 10 Jones - Keepers
    Not easy picking between this and 'Hopeland'. This should have been 'Ghost of Song' sitting at no. 10 but rules are rules.If Miracle Miles songs are intimate then this is even more so. Really feel like Trev is in the room as he bares his soul.
    If we're talking Miracle Mile , let me say how much I'm enjoying 'In Cassidy's Care'. Gets better with each play. Title track and 'I Love You, Goddbye' are early standouts. I can't see any other album beating it to my number one spot for 2013

    1. Honoured to make your top ten Phil.
      Thank you.
      Glad too that you are enjoying ICC.

  5. Re: The Boss... Trev has all of the adjectives right regarding Bruce's best 3 albums, and I agree completely about The River/Born In The USA. It may have been the pinnacle of his commercial successs, but it kinda felt like feel-good stadium rock to me. I jumped ship on Bruce here for awhile, when the gaunt and greasy street kid morphed into poster-boy hunk, dancing with Courteney Cox in his video, then going on to wed a Hollywood starlet. Bounty Hunter made some great points about the gems on the stripped-down acoustic albums, and I think he's right about Darkness being his best set of tunes. But it's a stark, edgy guitar-driven ride, perhaps not your cuppa...

    If the whole "cars & girls" thing puts you off, I'd recommend the oft overlooked 'Tunnel Of Love.' Recorded whilst the walls were crumbling on his marriage to afore-mentioned starlet, it's all about despair, questioning and self-doubt in romantic/personal relationships. Thoughtful, understated & emotional pop songs on it. "One Step Up" is classic Bruce, poetic and eloquent, filled with wonderful lyrics; lines such as "When I look at myself I don't see - The man I wanted to be."

    Lots of advice from everybody, but as they say "You can lead a horse to water, but..." Good luck.

  6. Well I've been well and truly bruciejacked. Thank god for spotify. Tunnel of Love Tim is probably the only BS lp I've listened through for start to finish after I heard a couple of covers I really liked (EBTG do a great version of tougher than the rest. One thing that strikes me is that my guess is that you have all seen him play live. I think that maybe one of the things that put me off giving his records a go. Well I've now got them loaded up on Spotify with Darkness first as that seems to get the vote.

    one question for bounty hunter though how does brucie live rate against king kurt and their DR smegs wheel of fortune?

  7. Tunnel of Love is one I've overlooked of late so that's going to get a dusting off.
    I see no paradox in loving Stadium Rock Bruce and then having the hairs on my arms lifted by the despair and story telling of Nebraska (especially played late at night, in the car, on a dark empty road on the way home).
    Likewise, there's a place in my gig experience for Bruce in a stadium and King Kurt at Leeds Uni with their (in)famous Dr Smeg's Wheel of Misfortune in which an idiot from the crowd was strapped to a wheel, delivered alcohol via a bucket, funnel and tube and then spun round with obvious unpleasant results. Oh, and a girl then undid his trousers and attempted what must be described as the most unsuccessful blow job of all time. Now you don't get THAT at a show at Wembley Stadium !


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