Kate Bush – Aerial (2005)

Reviewed by Rachel Wifall

Granted, Kate Bush’s latest release came out six months ago (November 2005)—just in time for my birthday. You’d think I would have returned the favor and reviewed it in a timely fashion. However, I was busy. I also, like all Kate Bush fans from back in the day, waited twelve years for her to present the world with a new album (since her 1993 release The Red Shoes). So, I think it’s ok; we’re even.

She’s back! …and after all this time she has a lot to say: Aerial is a double album, comprised of 16 songs in total. The first song, and first release, “King of the Mountain,” did very well in England (peaking at number four on the UK singles chart), as did the entire album, which entered the UK album chart at number three. I think it’s safe to say that Aerial, and all of Kate’s oeuvre is a bit too esoteric and quirky for the mainstream US music market, but, as always, Kate has a loyal underground following over here, including yours truly.

These two CDs, subtitled “A Sea of Honey” and “A Sky of Honey” are full of songs of varied styles—yet, however different they may be, each track is an unmistakable child of Kate, echoing her earlier musical innovations. As always, her lyrics are quirky, moving, sensual, unexpected: “King of the Mountain” is an ode to Elvis; “Joanni” an ode to Joan of Arc; “Pi” is a tender song which reflects on a “sweet and gentle and sensitive man/ With an obsessive nature and deep fascination/ For numbers” in which Bush proceeds to sing the integers of the number pi. “Mrs. Bartolozzi” is a subtly erotic song about washing laundry. Bush is a master storyteller and a supreme painter of verbal imagery (dealing, in fact, with painting itself in “An Architect’s Dream” and “The Painter’s Link;” “Sunset” is a gorgeous poem of visual imagery in itself, bringing together the honey images of the CD subtitles).

Musically, there is much of Kate’s trademark moody piano, but also electronic and orchestral instrumentation, and even early modern strings on “Bertie,” a delightful Renaissance-styled homage to Kate’s son. As always, Kate has scattered interesting sound effects throughout her songs: speaking voices, strange voices, bird calls. Some of these work, some of them are…well…perplexing: as Alexis Petridis of The Guardian Unlimited notes, “It is filled with things only Kate Bush would do. Some of them you rather wish she wouldn't.”

The album is somewhat slow moving and melancholy in tone throughout, until it picks up momentum toward the end of CD2 (“A Sky of Honey”): “Sunset” closes with a rousing refrain of Spanish guitar, and “Nocturn” has a great funky groove accompanied by some dissonant harmonies reminiscent of Bush’s former work with the Bulgarian Woman’s Choir on her album The Sensual World. The final, title track, “Aerial” incorporates a driving beat and ends the album on an excited note with the lyrics “I’ve gotta be up on the roof/ Up, up high on the roof/ Up, up on the roof/ In the sun,” bird calls, lots of laughter—and a fantastic electric guitar reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, one of Kate’s mentors whose talent she has employed in the past.

Musically, Aerial sounds like much of what Kate Bush has done before. This listener wishes she had followed the tack she took in the second CD a bit further, into more upbeat and wildly transcendent tunes. However, what she does she does so well, and I still have to give this album an A.

Overall Grade: A


smg58 said...

About f***ing time...

Digital Doc said...

Good things come to those with a little patience! Now you're not the only one doing CD reviews around here!