The Sensual World, by Kate Bush
Although I have long respected her music and cheered on her career and success, I must admit that I have never made myself as familiar as I ought to be with her discography as a whole. And, as is often the case, a rankdown invitation gave me the invitation to join in on a career retrospective that was wel in progress that I unfortunately had missed up to that point. Be that as it may, The Sensual World is an interesting place to begin a retrospective look at Kate Bush’s career, as she had been a confirmed hitmaker in the UK before then and was already a highly respected artist. That said, this album has not received the same degree of commercial success as her previous album (The Hounds Of Love) did. Is it still a worthwhile album nonetheless?
The album begins with the title track, which marries Kate Bush’s lovely lyricism with a gorgeous Celtic instrumentation, a real highlight that points out desire as well as a sense of haunting. “Love And Anger” is another song that marries interesting lyrics about a troubled relationship that is filled with ambivalent albums on the part of the narrator with some gorgeous and driving music. “The Fog” combines reflecting lyrics about someone picking up on the signals a loved one is sending out with some ominous and beautiful music, touched by gorgeous strings. “Reaching Out” is a beautiful look at the way that we reach out for intimacy to others and strive to overcome our own solitude, with multi-tracked vocals as well as gorgeous instrumentals. “Heads We’re Dancing” combines an interesting story of a charged encounter between the narrator and a would-be lover with some music that sounds like it came straight out of a Peter Gabriel album with a driving and almost industrial sound, especially at the beginning. “Deeper Understanding” is a strikingly prophetic discussion of the turning away from intimacy to spending our time on computer devices, with intriguing vocal effects and somewhat anxious and tense production. “Between A Man And A Woman” is an exploration of intimacy and romance and communication, which is beautifully produced like everything else on this album. “Never Be Mine” is a more melancholy reflection on the lack of congruence between the dream of a lasting and passionate romance with the sadder reality. “Rocket’s Tail” has an austere sound with lots of vocal production and no instrumentation to start, and deeply symbolic lyrics, making for a rather arresting and somewhat dark song before the rock guitars enter. “This Woman’s Work” is a moving and encouraging song about the work and effort involved by men and women in the context of relationships and their end. “Walk Straight Down The Middle” is another song about relationships and communications and toeing a narrow line and being more resilient than one would expect.
It is difficult to know why this album was not popular upon its release, but it is not hard to see why it has been highly praised despite its lower commercial profile. This is an album with simply beautiful production and instrumentation as well as the (usual) highly literary lyrics from Kate Bush. As someone who is not familiar with her body of work as a whole, it is hard to tell if this album is representative of Kate Bush’s body of work as a whole, but if you are a fan of lush and complex instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics that deal with questions of love and relationships, this album is certainly a good choice. Kate Bush may not be the most accessible artist, but if your tastes tend towards baroque pop there is a lot to enjoy here. I thought every song on this album was very good or great, and if nothing struck me as an obvious hit, this is an album that would be easy to listen to repeatedly depending on the mood.