Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kate Bush

  • The Dreaming [EMI America, 1982] B+
  • Hounds of Love [EMI America, 1985] B
  • The Whole Story [EMI America, 1986] A-
  • The Sensual World [Columbia, 1989] B
  • The Red Shoes [Columbia, 1993] Neither
  • Aerial [Columbia, 2005] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Dreaming [EMI America, 1982]
The most impressive Fripp/Gabriel-style art-rock album of the postpunk refulgence makes lines like "I love life" and "Some say knowledge is something that you never have" say something. Part of the reason is that Bush is flaky enough to seek the higher plane in "a hired plane," although as you might expect the resulting analysis often crumbles under scrutiny. It also helps that the emotional range of her singing sometimes approaches its physical range, although when it doesn't you'd best duck. But the revelation is the dense, demanding music, which gets the folk exoticism of current art-rock fashion out of mandolins and uillean pipes and didgeridoos rather than clumsy polyrhythms, and goes for pop outreach with hooks rather than clumsy polyrhythms. B+

Hounds of Love [EMI America, 1985]
Just as her music says she hopes everyone does, I respect and like this woman. Though it's tempting to slot her with Laura Nyro, you never get the sense she's a fool--she's more circa-Hejira Joni Mitchell. Her best songs can't match their best, but sonically she's magnificent, out-stripping her art-rock mentors, and it would be churlish to deny her to audiophiles and/or young women seeking independent role models. Nevertheless, to be a Romantic with a capital R in 1986 is to be a Victorian like Tennyson, who provides Bush her epigraph. It is deliberately to cultivate a sensibility whose time you know perfectly well has passed. B

The Whole Story [EMI America, 1986]
This extravagantly brainy spiritual sexpot was made for the Fairlight synthesizer, and her beautifully crafted best-of proves it. Even the best of the old U.K. hits she strews among the tokens of her American breakthrough, 1980's "Army Dreamers," lives and dies with its lyric. But as she learns to manipulate her electronic orchestra, which took a while (cf. 1980's "Breathing"), the songs turn into compositions, so that if the unfettered emotionalism of "Hounds of Love," say, isn't your cup of tea, you're still rooting for her as she takes off her shoes and throws them in the lake. And then there's "Running Up That Hill," a woman's orgasm in 4:58. A-

The Sensual World [Columbia, 1989]
The longing for contact and obliteration are themes grand enough to support a little grandiosity, and because she's smarter than the average art-rocker, she brings something worth telling to them--even something worth "expressing." She knows herself better, too; typical that her roots move is Trio Bulgarka rather than some Afro-source having nothing to do with who she is. Just wish she convinced me the Trio Bulgarka had more to do with who I am. The title song could give Henry James a boner. The one where her beloved turns into Hitler is art-rock. B

The Red Shoes [Columbia, 1993] Neither

Aerial [Columbia, 2005] Dud