Stan Deely on The Kick Inside
MY HISTORY WITH KATE BUSH
I would have heard the single Wuthering Heights in early 1978. I wasn’t particularly impressed. I was a 14 year old punk fan – Buzzcocks and Sham 69 the new exciting bands on my block. “A squeaky voiced poor man’s Noosha Fox with sub Pan’s People hippie chick dancing” was my considered opinion.
As time went by, I was grudgingly impressed by some of her singles, the batshit crazy ‘The Dreaming’ with its Wurzels meet Aborigine vocals and considered ‘Running Up the Hill’ her standout achievement. I don’t think I actually heard an actual album until The Sensual World and Red Shoes in the 2000’s. I would generally find that I liked two or three songs but found her voice a bit grating over a whole album and generally found myself switching off and losing attention. Basically. the albums weren’t sticking.
When Aeriel was released I rated the single and burned myself a copy. First few listens felt more of a chore than a pleasure but then it clicked and now I’m of the opinion that it’s a pretty good work albeit a bit much to take in in its entirety.
She’s been nagging at me, as do other female artists such as P J Harvey and Bjork that I admire and like the occasional song but don’t really do it for me over album length. Therefore I thought Kate Bush would be a suitable applicant for the second artist in my on-going 12 albums in 12 months project.
For this album I’m carrying on with my format of trying to review blind armed only with what my ears and the record sleeve tell me and eschewing the internet, Wikipedia etc for hard information and opinions. I will probably resort to that and other biographical stuff after posting.
The delectable Ms Bush on a swing with faux oriental lettering and colouring. Screams mid 1976 old wave sophistico-rock ie. Sadistica Mika Band etc – the music record companies were backing in 1976/77, that very quickly became old news in the punk explosion. An iconic image I suppose but not exactly inspired.
Moving, which I think may be a tribute to her (and Bowie’s) dance and mime tutor Lindsey Kemp starts with what sounds like wolves howling then signature 70s singer songwriter piano calling to mind Elton John. The high register vocals (soprano?) I find a bit of a challenge but the song has a lovely airy spacy pop chorus that reminds me of classic Pink Floyd. Multiple voice/chorus style backing vocals (or is it all Kate) is also something I tend to dislike but it seems to work. Segues straight into the next song which has a similar style. I am surprised that it lasts 3 minutes as it all seems over in like 90 seconds ending with seagull noises.
More piano. Slightly corny lyrics The feel is lush and comforting. Skilfully played with nice instrumental touches. Superior songwriting and playing. Interesting jazzy breakdown. Gets quite echo-ey and spacey recalling Supertramp or even Pink Floyd.
In the first two songs she has set out her stall. I hear echoes of Joni Mitchell, Elton John, The Who, as well as the aformentioned two. Superior 70’s AOR but with a feminine touch. You can see why this was such a winner. Nice, good looking, interesting teenage girl takes over the territory normally occupied by bedenimed hirsute boring musos but also with killer tunes and kookiness that will resonate with the ladies. 2 – nil to Kate so far.
Starts with just piano and vocal – a bit Bohemian Rhapsody-ish before the band come in. Lyrically it tackles religion and ritual (with a nod to menstruation). Pretty heavy stuff for a teenager. It lifts in the chorus. Would work as a stadium ballad. I can see a Hunky Dory connection here – baroque classy pop.
I have had some exposure to the 1970’s classic rock pop cannon – Band on the Run, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Supertramp etc having been exposed to them from older siblings record collections in the mid 70’s but those records didn’t particularly connect and I haven’t gone back to them since getting into more energetic stuff in 1977 but I reckon, so far, this album more than matches them.
Interesting time signature. A very 1976 rock funk pop concoction like Fox or something. I imagine Kokomo (who I have never heard), would have sounded like this. Catchy as hell with a great uplifting chorus.. A lot of the lyrics seems to be about quite universal themes emotions – feeling good, feeling free, moving, dance etc and whilst a bit cliched on the lyric sheet she makes them work in song. Another one that seems to end too soon.
THE MAN WITH THE CHILD IN HIS EYES
The second single and I remember at the time thinking it was pretty good. More straightforward and less gimmicky than Wuthering Heights. Sung in a lower register and you can understand the words. The melancholic ballads of Abba come to mind with this like an English Rose version to their Scandi-noir take. Pretty perfect at two and a half minutes. Possibly the stand out track on the album.
Coming straight after the last song the vocal at the start sounds a bit high and gimmicky intro.. However I’m willing to concede that like Like Last Christmas, Fairy Tale of New York etc its very ubiquity over the years has battered me into compliance and I accept that is a tune for the ages, a super catchy earworm and an all time classic. She’s calmed down by the chorus and sounds epic rather than shrieky and it gets even better in the coda when she has stopped singing. Kudos to her for holding out for it as the first single against the record company who wanted I think James with the Cold Gun which is one of the weaker tracks here.
Listening to it it’s easy to bring to mind her on Top of the Pops doing her wookie witchy dancey thing and I have to say that the first time she appeared on Top of the Pops was a classic TV pop “Just WTF is this?” moment.
JAMES AND THE COLD GUN
This one reminds me of a Steely Dan tune. The closest the album gets to standard rock albeit with a kooky twist and a more theatrical than most of her competitors could manage. Tells a story and makes one think one possible future for her could have been musical theatre like the Abba boys. One could argue that she tried it with the Tour of Life and, I imagine, discovered that she was more productive and happier making music in the studio than trodding the boards. Makes me wonder how it was portrayed on the Tour of Life. The band just about stop it becoming too lumpen and then we have a switchback to a Queen style piano line followed by a classic 1970’s style soft rock coda to end. A bit out of place in the context of the rest of the album.
This one has a piano riff that’s also a bit Steely Dan. In fact just Kate and piano. The song itself like something Stevie Wonder would have done on Songs in the Key of Life. I am amazed by the lyrics when I think how I was regarding love and sex at age 19. (I know I’m a male but my female counterparts at the time didn’t seem much more mature in their attitudes). One of the highlights of the album. I’m surprised I’ve never heard it before as it could be a radio staple. Voice still a bit squeaky for my taste though.
OH TO BE IN LOVE
Another mannered vocal but I’m starting to get used to and even liking it. This one is pretty standard kooky Kate, with its operatic vocal, jerky rhythm and multi-voiced male backing vocals. The sort of thing French and Saunders would parody but we’re deep in Kate’s world now and she’s in control and owns it. Another love song. I would guess that this and the previous song would indicate that a) Kate has experienced a pretty strong , mature love affair by this time in her life or b) Had read a lot of literature and was a pretty good empath and actor. She keeps it interesting with understated but effective musical and vocal twists and turns. Nice catchy piano and we even get some Sgt Peppers style horns. I am pretty impressed.
L’AMOUR LOOKS SOMETHING LIKE YOU.
A third song about love and relationships! Are we moving into concept album territory? Just about maintains the standard but doesn’t add that much to the album. Has a surprising lyrical reference to “sticky love inside of me” that I imagine is metaphorical rather than literal. Maybe her mind is less smutty than mine but if not fair play and extra kudos to the lady for telling her truth as it is. At this point in the album I may be struggling at a bit with the vocal gymnastics however to think that I was buying Sham 69 records at the time when I could have owned this. However I subscribe to the mantra of everything comes at the right time and now is my Kate time.
THEM HEAVY PEOPLE
A live version of this was released in 1979 and I remember thinking at the time “This is pretty catchy and better than the rest of her stuff” Once again, a jerky almost funky rhythm and once again a precocious lyric regarding spiritual masters and teachers although she does blow it for me by using the none more 70’s word ‘heavy’ which at the time was on linguistic death row before being finally executed in 1982 by Neil the Hippy in the Young Ones. But I suppose ‘Them Spiritual Masters’, ‘The Awakened Ones’ or ‘Those Self Realised Gurus’ are all a bit clunky as song titles. In fact, it is insanely catchy, the rhythm is well infectious and it’s great to sing along to. A strong contender for my ‘All time go to Drag karaoke song’
ROOM FOR THE LIFE
Very Elton John piano to start. A feminist anthem. Is there nothing that the Mother Teresa of progressive pop rock can’t do? Seriously though, I am pretty much blown away by the maturity and insight she shows in her lyrics. I listened to the album quite a lot before I looked at the lyrics and when I did, I was on the whole, mightily impressed. She takes big subjects in her stride. The songs picks up tempo as it goes along introducing a subtle Latin rhythm for the second verse before going all out Latino rhumba rave up to finish. Definitely a curve ball but it kinda works. Reminds me of Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain where they also do feelgood Latin. (And which I think is great by the way)
THE KICK INSIDE
No band on this Just Kate, her piano and strings making for a relatively understated but haunting. I expected from the song title the song to be about pregnancy but the lyrics left me unsure. Was it a love song? An ode to a sibling even? I must admit I sneaked a cheeky glance at the internet for more info as I didn’t want to appear too stupid in front of my readers and discovered that I was not wrong!
I’m pretty much blown away. After a month of playing and living with this album it is still growing on me. I am still hearing new stuff and it looks like it will stay in my record collection and get listened to – which I can’t say about the majority of the Bowie albums I reviewed last year.
Its an almost unbelievable achievement as the debut album by a 19 year old. It seems the world felt the same. I believe it cleaned up in all manner of readers and critics polls at the end of the year and immediately put her up there with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Queen etc – acts who were at least a few years and a few albums into their careers. A remarkable achievement.
And you? Your impressions of her debut TOTP performance? Did you buy the album at the time? And how has it aged for you? Any insider gossip. I don’t suppose anyone here saw her live with the K T Bush band. Over to you Afterword Massive.