Hounds Of Love, by Kate Bush
While I just barely missed the opportunity to do a rankdown for this album on an internet forum where I am a member, the sudden success of Running Up That Hill, which as I listen to this is poised to enter the top ten and become, somehow, Kate Bush’s biggest hit in the United State by a huge margin, as only the original release of “Running Up That Hill” even hit the top 40 among her singles in the United States, which is shocking given the excellence of her body of work as a whole. Given that Hounds Of Love is experiencing a bit of a resurgence based on the popularity of its lead single, is the album as a whole poised to be worthy of greater reconsideration in light of the success of a big hit single. Given that Kate Bush is clearly an example of art rock, is this album one that is accessible enough to a listener like myself nearly 40 years after it was released?
The album begins with “Running Up That Hill,” a song which reflects Kate Bush’s attempts to come to terms with God and divine providence, all the more interesting given how catchy the song is despite its heavy material. “Hounds Of Love” follows with a sense of haunting and fear concerning love, reflecting an ambivalence to live and relationships on Bush’s part. “The Big Sky” is a driving song that expresses Bush’s frustration of not being understood by someone else. “Mother Stands For Comfort” is a lovely and gentle song. “Cloudbusting” is a catchy and driving song that definitely deserves to be better known and appreciated, with its metaphorical language about love and relationships. “And Dream Of Sheep” is a lovely and gentle piano ballad with spoken word samples that explores the loss of sleep that comes from having a troubled mind. “Under Ice” sounds ominous and insistent about a frozen river that is splitting and being cut. “Waking The Witch” contains intriguing stereo sound with lots of calls to wake up to open a gorgeous piano ballad that switches into a darker and moodier and far more experimental sound with tolling bells and other voices and effects. “Watching You Without Me” is another song that reflects on the melancholy side of love, as Bush seems to be a bit jealous, even a bit haunting, with plenty of interesting sound effects and musical effects. “Jig Of Life” combines an actual jig instrumental with Bush’s evocative and expressive lyrics about life and entanglement with others. “Hello Earth” is a lengthy song, over six minutes, but it is a beautiful song about isolation and feeling out in space, as it were. “The Morning Fog” ends the album with a lovely song about communication and connection.
This album is definitely an enjoyable one as far as I am concerned. It is without a doubt an experimental artpop album with daring production choices, but it manages to be highly experimental without being deliberately alienating. To be sure, most of these songs would never be played on top 40 radio–and it is somewhat remarkable that “Running Up That Hill” is poised to become a top 40 hit twice over. This is an album that is going to be praised and critically approved, but not the sort of album that has obvious mass appeal. Yet it is accessible enough that if someone wants an album that is full of songs that are as intelligent and quirky as the hit single and a bit more weird, there is a lot more here where that came from. And that ought to be enough to ensure that this album remains at least a bit popular over time, given the fact that it has at least one song that resonates with the public and that encourages people to listen to the rest–and enjoy songs like “Cloudbursting” and the title track, as well as the rest of what this excellent album has to offer.