Slow Music Review: Kate Bush – The Red Shoes

Somehow in the year and a half that I’ve been filling this blog with opinions and passions I have neglected to mention Kate Bush. Now, you may sit there and holler, “so?”, but the regularity in which I put my current opinions in context with my favourite artists demands that I comment on her, if only in passing. We are all in agreement, Kate Bush is unique. Kate Bush is incomparable. Kate Bush is without equal. Of course this is slight truth-bending, Bush is very much a continuation of the same eclectic, English romanticism and whimsy that fueled an early David Bowie, Genesis et al. But the facts remain that what she took she gave back in spades. A perpetual motion of creativity and expression. A very important figure indeed. I take a wealth of influence from the control she has held over her output and the sheer quality of it all. It’s something I set my sail to as rryrry and a path I hope to mirror. Yet of all the albums I own, I somehow never got round to listening to The Red Shoes until recently. Though I drew a line under it last week, I still feel like ripped paper brutally pieced together with frosted tape. I am still a little lost. These feelings will forever be printed on The Red Shoes and for that reason alone I want to talk about it.

In truth, it is my sisters who are my biggest inspiration and influence. We are very close; a tight ‘nit’ [sic.] club that lets few in but keeps them forever. I was through my older sister that I first heard of Kate Bush and is from her that I came to ‘Moments of Pleasure’. This is one of those songs that could keep an album of electroacoustic noise in the Top 10. The common complaint about Kate Bush is that she has the tendency to uglify her voice and disguise her texts behind juvenile affectations (again, not unlike Bowie). ‘The Dreaming‘ from the album of the same name springs to mind; a cacophony of intonations, chants and cod-Australian accents. Personally I love it. It’s a true sign of the sheer, flawless talent she knows she possesses and that the music transcends everything. There is no need for show or the lazy melisma if it’s not needed. Though that said, every now and then it doesn’t hurt to do things traditionally. ‘Moments of Pleasure’ is almost violent in the way it hits the boxes of satisfaction. A simple modal piano progression swathed in the most elegantly meandering Michael Kamen arrangement that toys with the harmony and heightens the emotional punch. That alone would satisfy the most temporary of listens, but it is the text that floors me. For all her flights of fancy, it is when Bush writes prosaically and honestly that she is at her best. To hear her recall ‘some moments that [she’s] had’ before clearly and coherently remember those close to her. Those close to her who are not around anymore. ‘These moments given are a gift from time’. I can feel the frosted tape come loose. I miss my sisters.

Thank goodness ‘Moments of Pleasure’ is followed by some classic Bush. Varied, bonkers, littered with literary references and hooks. I don’t think I’d have survived another onslaught of honesty. Give me my escapist fantasy and keep me from feeling, that’s the story of the modern world. If Bush knew it then she does wonders in transporting us from the mundane. The deployment of her Irish roots in the title track and then Prince in ‘Why Should I Love You?‘ provide welcomed distractions. Danceable distractions. Very of it’s time, but then again all of her albums are of their time; they just all happen to be utterly Bush in equal measure. My spirits are lifted. Joining a gospel choir becomes a serious possibility. Nothing can stop me now. Except. Except that this isn’t the last song. Bush is a craftsman. Great thought is put into each and every piece of music, and then greater thought still put into where they come on an album. ‘You’re the One’ closes The Red Shoes.

Much like ‘Moments of Pleasure’, this song is played straight. No metaphors and no allusions, just simple language explaining arguably the second biggest loss that can effect us; the death of Love. It’s all very familiar, but luckily for me the scar is very thin and very light. Still, the opening couplet “it’s alright I’ll come round when you’re not in” puts me back in that apologetic, subservient role I was never happy in. Scared to rock the boat, even though it had sunk long ago. The futile attempts to take pot shots at the past by changing at an unhealthy rate. This song brings it all back and, frankly, makes me utterly jubilant that I know it will never happen again. Big talk, but true. Because she already broke me with ‘Moments of Pleasure’, it allows ‘You’re the One’ to twist the emotional knife, providing the most sadly compelling of listening experiences. Sadness is something we must confront because it is inescapable. To confront it with such clarity and beauty is truly a gift. Truly.

Next week I promise not to be sad. I promise. Why not follow this blog and see where I’ll take you? Or follow the Facebook if that’s your thing. And look, I can write happy songs too! In fact, my (mostly) upbeat new EP, ‘a popup village’ is available on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp. Click this lovely text to have a listen and purchase. Until next time.

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