I've only listened to this twice so haven't really had enough time to assimilate its artistic significance etc. etc., but I can report that, contrary to my expectations, it's really good: far less mystical than I feared, and riddled with top tunes and thoughtful lyrics. In fact, I think it's the best Kate Bush album since "Never For Ever", and that was thirteen years ago.
Songs like "And So Is Love" and "You're The One" show a rare grasp of the cruelties of life, "Eat The Music" and "Rubberband Girl" are as joyous as you could want, and others such as "Moments Of Pleasure" (dodgy lyric award: "Hey there Teddy/Spinning in the chair at Abbey Road"), "Constellation Of The Heart" and "Top Of The City" are gorgeous too. The usual raftload of stellar guests turn up too, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck (not together, unfortunately), Nigel Kennedy, Princeand Lenny Henry, but this is Kate's show, sounding happier, and certainly less introspective and samey, than she has done in a long time.
KATE BUSH Aerial (EMI)
As Im such a latecomer to this album (well, given that it took Ms Bush twelve years to make it I dont feel too bad about waiting another two to listen to it) Ill spare you the almost obligatory mentions of Pi and laundry, with which youre by now no doubt more than familiar with in this context, and concentrate instead on the actual sound of Aerial.
This double album is subtle, delicate and sumptuous in ways that make Kates hardly slapdash earlier work sound crude and hamfisted. (Its also, perhaps in deliberate opposition to the loudness brinkmanship that seems to have engulfed certain sections of the music industry, cut at a very low level for a modern CD: it sounds great, you just have to crank the volume up a bit to appreciate it.) Theres also a depth and resonance to her singing listen to the way she enchants the digits of Pi, for example - that I dont recall from previous albums; theres also a complete absence of that oft-parodied screeching into which her vocals have been known to tumble from time to time!
Musically, Aerial hovers in territory somewhere in between side one and side two of Hounds Of Love, veering towards the crisp and almost commercial here, bleeding into more conceptual, long-form storytelling there. Its arguably her most uncategorisable fusion of genres yet: I can hear pop, folk, jazz and classical in there somewhere, yet blended together with such delicious liquidity that I really couldnt pinpoint the join.
Opener and sole single King Of The Mountain might be the most immediately familiar moment, an allusive portrayal of American cultural megalomania that references Elvis and Citizen Kane. Joanni (as in, of Arc, apparently) reminds how Kate has been attempting to humanise technology ever since using a Yamaha CS80 synthesiser on Never For Ever. A Coral Room is arced in loveliness, and Sunset morphs from its initial sensual, jazzy sway to a near-flamenco conclusion. The albums masterpiece, perhaps not coincidentally one of its more conventional moments, is Nocturn, a twinkling, celestial funk.
Perhaps EMIs bizarre strategy of permitting the music press only a single supervised listen before the albums release harmed Aerials prospects in the short term: I can recall reading a few hedge-betting three-out-of-five reviews written by journalists justifiably wary of offering their definitive opinion of this complex, highly anticipated work after only one play. Aerial demands far more of the listener than that; give it time, and youll appreciate the art, craft, talent and love thats been poured into this remarkable album.