Hounds of Love | Retro-spective

A look back on Kate Bush's iconic 1985 record


Rory Buccheri | Sat, 18 Apr 2020


Unrivalled masterpiece in the discography of pop heroine Kate Bush, Hounds Of Love is a record that satiates its listeners today as it did when it was first released in 1985. Stylistically speaking, it has all the kicks and punches of the 80s: from the synth arrangements, to the back voices and transitions track-into-track.

 

The record starts with two of the strongest tracks in the singer’s career: ‘Running Up That Hill’, luring and haunting, and the title track, ‘Hounds of Love’. If the former constitutes a musical tension building upwards and never fully resolving, the latter is deeply energetic and, with its fast pace, it manages to take us all the way up to the highest of heights. Speaking of heights and Kate Bush, we can’t help leaping back to her shattering, haunting vocals in ‘Wuthering Heights’, the splendid leading single of 1978 The Kick Inside. As the record proceeds, we are given space for breath once again only when ‘Mother Stands for Comfort’ kicks in. The predominant voice of the bass and the arrangements in this track are what make it truly remarkable and a worthy child of 80s experimentation. After we have slowed down, indulging in this peculiar, bass-based track, we can once again leap up towards the sky with ‘Cloudbusting’. Each heartbeat chases the next one, each percussion weaves into the fabric of this song.

Even though Hounds Of Love is hardly the most daring record in Bush’s career, it is a true milestone in her artistic career and, in general, for pop music in the 1980s.

Darker in texture and to navigate, ‘Under Ice’ strays from the upbeat positivity boasted in the first two tracks. This journey, of Kate as artist and Kate as woman, talks of originality, loneliness and incommunicability. We wonder if it is fear of being alone, or dread of not being alone, as something is ‘under the ice moving’, but ‘it’s me / something / it’s me / someone help them’ her voice begs us as the song fades.

Another strong work of bass and arrangement, ‘Watching You Without Me’ is the perfect continuation of ‘Cloudbusting’, and comes as a relief after the harsh sounds of ‘Waking the Witch’. Combining successfully notes of prog rock and hues of Indian-imported sounds, this is one of the tracks that gives us insight into the underlying concept behind the album. In Kate’s own words: ‘this poor sod has been in the water for hours and been witch-hunted and everything. Suddenly, they're kind of at home, in spirit, seeing their loved one sitting there waiting for them to come home. And, you know, watching the clock, and obviously very worried about where they are, […] but there's no way that you they actually communicate’.

The sound of ‘Jig of Life’ truly is a breath of something else, with its Irish folk ballad configuration being a truly refreshing feature. The record closes with ‘The Morning Fog’, abandoning the sepulchral choirs of ‘Hello Earth’ and offering resolution to the concept developed throughout the album

Bush’s 5th self-produced record reveals something of the artist that previous records had left aside.

The Kick Inside (1978) is an anthem to pop, a hymn to youth punctured with onirical vocals and literary references, and the record that ultimately consecrated Kate Bush to the altar of pop.

Lionheart (1978), on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from chewing rock-hard themes such as rape, religion, incest, murder and many more.

However, Hounds Of Love is iconic. Not just because of the success it meant for the artist (the single ‘Running Up That Hill’ made the top charts in the U.S. for months, shortly after the record was released) but because of what it means for her evolution as an artist. Hounds Of Love is a celebration of growth, of combining dare and exploration and, ultimately, a sprint to new musical heights. Not wuthering, this time.

 

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