Feb 13 2022

Album Review: Kate Bush – Hounds of Love (#MWE)

I must admit, as perhaps this daily album review exercise is burning me out a bit, but Hounds of Love was a very challenging listen for me, and one I intend to revisit many times. As it stands today, however, as I write this post, I am a bit disappointed and underwhelmed.

Kate Bush is well known for her prodigal skills, signed to EMI at the age of 16. But she was never exactly gunning to be Cyndi Lauper, and as she aged, she only got weirder. Hounds of Love, the artist’s most commercially successful album, is a soundscape of textures and progressive avant-pop whimsy – it is at once a brilliant example of big 80s pop and a curious case study of an artist’s idiosyncratic tendencies gone a bit overboard.

The album opens with classic pop – “Running Up That Hill,” the title track, and later, “Cloudbusting,” are some of Bush’s most recognizable, accessible, and yet uncompromising pieces. The album’s second half, a suite called The Ninth Wave, is where Bush’s experiments go full force; the artist curiously uses the then-revolutionary Fairlight CMI not to create percussion or large waves of all-encompassing synth tones, but rather subtle embellishments alongside layers of multi-instrumentation, as is heard on “Jig Of Life” and “Hello Earth.” It’s not that these moments give the album less focus; rather, to this reviewer’s ears, they show a musician in need of an editor. The aural embellishments keep Hounds of Love interesting, but it is all done in sacrifice of memorable melody.

Bush asks a lot of the listener, particularly in the second half, and I wish I could say the payoff is worth it. Perhaps as I grow more familiar with her work, and this album, my score will change, but as I sit here typing on my laptop today, I believe I have found a true example of what constitutes the utterance of an often overused term: overrated.

Score: 6/10