Why I’m Not More Excited About Kate Bush’s New Album
According to the singer-songwriter-producer’s website, “50 Words for Snow,” her first album in six years (due November 21), will feature “seven brand new tracks set against a background of falling snow.” Whatever that means, it sounds right up Bush’s alley (pretentious, but she can make it work), though seven songs running at 65 minutes means that Bush has pretty much given up on appealing to mainstream music fans. The result could either be seven strokes of genius, making us want each one to last well past the 10-minute mark, or bloated and overblown.
Normally, I’d be willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt without a second thought, as she is one of the most visionary recording artists of the last 30 years. Anyone who could make singles as uncompromising as “The Dreaming” or “Running Up That Hill” accessible is a musical miracle worker. If only she hadn’t gone and mucked up her near-perfect track record last May with “Director’s Cut,” a reworking of key tracks from her 1989 album, “The Sensual World,” and its 1993 follow-up, “The Red Shoes.”
The say don’t mess with perfection, and Bush went ahead and did it anyway. The album was praised by critics, but not so much by fans, who seemed to be equally divided on whether she improved the source material or ruined it. (Though it hit No. 2 in the UK during a brief chart run, “Director’s Cut” failed to enter Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.) I was somewhere in the middle, stuck between liking and loathing it but closer to the latter.
Though some of the reworkings were somewhat interesting, in making the songs sound rougher and more organic, Bush sacrificed the clean, ethereal quality that so perfectly counterpoints her tense, edgy tendencies. Bush is not a garage rocker and shouldn’t try so hard to sound like one. Most of “Director’s Cut” felt like unfinished demos that weren’t intended for public consumption — or shouldn’t have been. I never have to hear any of them again and would have preferred it if Bush had broken her silence with completely new music rather than backtracking to move forward. Maybe then she would have had time to throw in three more “Snow” tracks.
It’s not just that “Director’s Cut” tainted my high expectations of Bush. I’m worried that “50 Words for Snow” (if only one of them were “blizzard”) will go in the extreme opposite direction and sound too, hmm…, soothing. My biggest problem with a snow-themed Bush album, especially coming in late November, is that it might end up being perceived as a Christmas album, and worse, could even end up sounding like one. The set is bookended by tracks called “Snowflakes” and “Among Angels,” which sound like titles that could appear on Susan Boyle’s no-doubt-in-the-works third holiday album. If you never expected Bush’s and Boyle’s names to appear together in the same paragraph, then you probably understand my concern.
Titles like “Lake Tahoe” (track 3) and “Misty” (track 4) suggest supreme beauty and a slight loss of edge. May “Wild Man” (track 4) live up to its title while setting the musical mood.
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