Stan Deely on A Sea of Honey
AERIAL – A SEA OF HONEY
I am slightly familiar with this album having burned a library copy about a decade ago and giving it the occasional listen trying to get into it, which felt a bit of a duty. My first impression was mixed on one hand I thought it was good, on the other a bit safe and samey.
As is my wont I tried not find out too much about the album before listening but the darned Mojo magazine dropped through my door, reviewing significant moments of the last 30 years including a feature on the album. From this I learned that she’d returned to writing at the piano again, and wanted to make an ‘expansive double’ album in the style of Hounds of Love – standalone songs on the first disc and a conceptual suite on the second.
I knew the first disc better than the second hence the decision to review them separately so firstly – A SEA OF HONEY
THE KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
Continues the Kate tradition of starting with the lead off single and it’s a belter. On its release I thought “This is the best thing she has done since Running Up the Hill” which I used to think was the only thing I really liked by her but I softened around 2009 when I picked up cassettes of the Sensual World and the Red Shoes albums from charity shops. I can’t say that either impressed me much on my first listens back then.
A mid paced groove and the Peter Gabriel/Hugh Padgham big drum sound. It rocks. Kate is in fine voice. A strong comeback single.
My notes said tastefully produced adult oriented rock. The slightly queasy cheesy synth sound reminds me of the sound on Donald Fagens solo album Kamakariad (or at least my memory of it!) Also reminds me of the ersatz elevator music of the Young Marble Giants on their Testcard ep. The musician’s are credited on individual tracks, just for the album overall but it sounds like Eberhard Weber on the bass.
An exercise with Kate seeing if she can emote and bring passion to the singing numbers – which she does very . Shame she didn’t take on the oft used cliché of “‘Could sing the Telephone directory and make it sound good.”
Classic old school piano and voice Kate. A paean to whats shes been doing this past decade – being a mum and bringing up her son. I read somewhere but I’m not 100% sure about this, that both Kate and Sade brought up their kids hands on without the help of nannies, tutors etc and possibly in Sade’s case even cleaners. Can anyone corrobate or deny this info.
Anyway I’ve got nothing particular against this song and it turns out quite nice in a kinda folky almost Irish jig style when the strings break in. I’m surprised she didn’t include a Christmas humble brag round robin about his latest achievements. According to the song he brings her a lot of joy which makes me wonder why she stopped at the one kid.
This is more up my street. Just Kate and piano again but sounding a bit anxious and angsty. .Appears to be another mothering song – a paean to domestic contentment – not too rock’n’roll but fair play to her for writing this and adding to the the list of songs about domesticity- John Lennon’s Watching the Wheels and not much else.
At first I was irritated the ‘washing machine’ refrain but it grew on me. Great vocals as well.
HOW TO BE INVISIBLE
Could be a Radiohead song both in title and execution. Probably my favourite on this album. Stripped back. Kate in fine voice but his is what we expect nowadays. Circular rhythms. Bit motorik even.
Another groover. Sounds to me like Hot Chip doing a Talking Heads cover. The chorus has the album’s most catchy earworm. I find myself cycling around town singing it at the top of my voice. I would like to think it was influenced by Joe Strummer’s cry of “Johnny Johnny” at the end of Protex Blue but realise that this is probably not the case.
THE CORAL ROOM
Another piano ballad in a minor key a la Womans Work etc. A personal song about the passing of time and missing her mother. She’s pretty good at these. I wonder how it would sound if she did a solo piano album.
However I’m afraid that this particular song leaves me a bit cold. I can’t quite feel the gravitas she is aiming for. I like the slightly abstract imagery but for me works better as background listening than when I concentrate on the song and the words.. It just doesn’t move me like for instance Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young can with their piano ballads. Maybe its her voice which is a bit too mannered to sell it to me? Sorry to end the review on a downer. I would be open to hearing other opinions on what I am missing.
7 songs in 39 minutes is more digestible than the last album which had 11 songs lasting nearly an hour.
Takes some of the tropes, directions of the last album, the Red Shoes and moves them forward. More compact and singular than the Red Shoes, less trad Irish, no tropical excursions and nothing as out there as Big Stripey Lie.
Still a bit experimental, hence Pi and Mrs Barolozzi. Has an aura of command –“ I’m Kate Bush and I can do anything’. Not quite matching Hounds of Love but possibly second in the pantheon and this is before I get to A Sky of Honey.