Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (1985)
Strap on your legwarmers, pop on your shoulder pads and set your hair dryer to stun as we take a retrospective look at our favourite 80s pop records and their influence on current styles.
So where the fuck did Kate Bush come from? It seemed in the late 1970’s that she just appeared. Championed by none other than Dave Gilmour, Kate Bush burst into the music world in 1978 with her first single titled “Wuthering Heights”. The track is a complex piece with a catchy chorus (and a fantastic music video) based on the famous Emily Brontë novel of the same name. Since its release, the track has been regarded as one of the greatest singles ever released; a remarkable feat for a quiet and polite 19 year old from London.
An adventurous, sophisticated and gifted songwriter, Bush would further the success of her first single with a run of brilliant albums throughout the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s. Fusing highly regarded (at the time) progressive rock sensibilities with her own wholly unique brand of art pop, Bush quickly became a revisionist of popular music and her influence was felt throughout the music world within years of her arrival.
In 1982, her bold fourth album The Dreaming failed to mirror the success of her previous releases. With no leading singles, The Dreaming became Bush’s lowest selling record at the time and threatened to topple her long-run of commercial and critical success. The album peaked at #3 on the UK charts and critics were suspended in their thoughts on the album. Most were shocked by Bush’s brave venture into such sonically challenging and aggressive territory and many (including Bush herself) remarked that she “had gone mad”. Of course, hindsight would prove that The Dreaming only hinted at the fearless insanity yet to come.
Bush moved from London to Kent in 1983 to begin work on her wholly self-produced and self-financed fifth album. She had built a recording studio in a barn behind her family home and felt that the countryside aided her freedom in the recording of her material. Financially backed by the success of her first three records and working on a far more relaxed schedule than what was demanded of her while in London, Bush was able to take her time in recording and allow her creativity to flow naturally. EMI, wholly aware of the artist’s concise recording methods, left her alone and allowed her to record in peace. Much of the album was recorded in 1984 and in August 1985, with Bush leaving less than a blip on music’s radar in the three years prior, NME prematurely featured Kate Bush in a segment titled “Where are they Now?”
Less than one month after the publication of NME’s article, Hounds of Love arrived. A majestic and epic beast of a record Bush had been quietly working on for almost three years, Hounds of Love found Bush embarking on her boldest and bravest journey yet. The album extends farther in either direction of pop and experimental than any of her prior releases and would prove to be the artists magnum opus.
Comprised of two wholly individual sides, Hounds of Love once again found Bush straddling commercial and critical success brilliantly. Side A of the record, titled Hounds of Love, consists of 7 gorgeous pop tracks, bookended by the albums two most successful singles “Running Up That Hill” and “Cloudbusting”. Side B, however, is a completely different animal. Consisting of a sprawling concept suite of ambience, experimentalism and madness titled The Ninth Wave, it shows Bush expanding exponentially into a visionary songwriter and artist.
The Ninth Wave is a coherent yet chaotic concept piece and probably Bush’s most remarkable achievement to date. Based on a painting by Ivan Aivazovsky, Bush evokes a wide range of moods and an extensive palette of sounds. The Ninth Wave seems to have almost everything; gorgeous pop ballads, creepy gothic lullabies, film samples, cut and pitch-bent vocals, rollicking progressive rock, ambience and even a full-blown river dance sequence dominate this gobsmacking collection of songs.
Though Side A of the record is comparatively regarded as the albums “pop” side, it is by no means a collection of easily digestible songs. Despite four of its five tracks being released as singles, Side A boasts a sense of accessible creativity unlike anything experienced in the pop world at the time. Few tracks in pop music history as catchy or successful as “Cloudbusting” could claim to hold the same depth of lyrical content. Few pop stars would know even what a cloudbuster is and none would dare write a song about one.
Hounds of Love’s success knocked Madonna’s Like A Virgin off the charts and found Bush at the number one position for the second time in her career. Backed by another bundle of remarkable music videos (including this wacky clip for the albums fourth single “Big Sky”), Bush skyrocketed back into the public eye and has remained a prominent figure of pop music ever since.
In the early 1980s, Bush’s influence was already felt all over the recording industry. Artists like Madonna and Annie Lennox explored levels of expressionistic freedom - both physically and musically - impossible without Bush’s influence. Before Bush, no other woman had maintained such empowerment, success and control over her own material in the recording industry; remember, “Wuthering Heights” was the first ever single written and performed by a woman to top the UK charts. Kate Bush paved the way for a whole wave of successful female singer songwriters in the 80s and 90s like Björk, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Sinead O’Connor and her influence remains ever-prominent today with artists like Adele, Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, Goldfrapp and Bat for Lashes enjoying the artistic freedom left in Bush’s wake.
Hounds of Love remains the highest peak in Kate Bush’s extremely successful career and proves how vast her creativity had stretched in years since she recorded her first demos for Dave Gilmour and EMI in the mid-1970s. As strange today as it would have been in 1985, Hounds of Love concretes Kate Bush as one of the world’s most important and fascinating artists and is a prodigious pop masterpiece which remains virtually unrivalled.