No other female vocalist has reached the iconic status that Kate Bush has achieved in her lifetime. At only 19 years of age, she released her debut single, the ethereal ‘Wuthering Heights’, which clambered to the top spot of the UK Top 40. She’s released 10 studio albums throughout a career which spans a little over 40 years, and 1985 saw the release of what is considered to be Bush’s best album, and also one of the best albums of all time: Hounds Of Love.
The album opens with the ever so familiar hum of synths that appear on ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’. Chosen to be the lead single from the album, it’s one of Bush’s most memorable and commercially successful songs to date. It’s a track that, like the majority of Bush’s musical endeavours, successfully transports you to a tiny little world that shimmers and glows with passion. A tight band of feeling across the chest forms whenever this song is played – a sensation that isn’t unpleasant, but instead illustrates Bush’s phenomenal musical talent.
Album title track, ‘Hounds Of Love’, on the other hand, is a more upbeat, joyous affair. The danceable rhythm of the song juxtaposes Bush’s lyricism – “I just can’t deal with this / but I’m still afraid to be there / among your hounds of love / and feel your arms surround me”. It tells the tale of someone who is afraid to succumb to the act of falling in love, and instead cuts themselves off from pursuing it, despite it being the one thing they really need (“I don’t know what’s good for me / I need your love, love, love, love”.) Presented amongst a backdrop of falling drum beats and violins that jerk back and forth, it’s an underrated gem of a single that was spawned from this album.
Following on from ‘Hounds Of Love’ smoothly, ‘The Big Sky’ is an inspiring, jubilant ode to daydreaming (“what was the question? / I was looking at the big sky”) and past relationships (“you never understood me / you never really tried”.) ‘Mother Stands For Comfort’ is a gentle yet rigid song collecting Bush’s thoughts on the role of a mother. Closing the first half of the record is the delicate ‘Cloudbusting’, a song that emits waves of romantic hope, and is again decorated with Bush’s subtle lyrics – “every time it rains / you’re here in my head / like the sun coming out / I just know that something good is going to happen”.
Hidden underneath the single heavy first side of the album is the second side of Hounds of Love – a concept album entitled The Ninth Wave, which documents a person who is alone drifting across the sea at night time. It’s well crafted and holds a heady mixture of tracks that make it a success. ‘And Dream Of Sheep’ and ‘Watching You Without Me’ are the most thoughtful tracks, showing that, whilst being a brilliant pop writer, Bush can also have her admittedly sentimental moments, without being mushy or sloppy but instead visionary and seminal. ‘The Morning Fog and ‘Jig Of Life’ are the most uplifting songs here, holding a tarnished and infectious spirit. Scattered between these tracks are the heavily experimental and innovative ‘Under Ice’, ‘Waking The Witch’ and ‘Hello Earth’, thoroughly demonstrating and confirming Bush’s credibility as a songwriter in a male-dominated industry.
If there’s one record that belongs in your collection, it’s Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love. Popular amongst pop and rock fans alike, it paved the way for female musicians with a subtle burst of uniqueness and rebellion against pop conformity. An album that sparkles with a central theme of love, that is essential for all lovers of music.
Words by Emmie Morris