The Good: Hints of sound
The Bad: Obscured, indecipherable or repeated lyrics, Music overbears vocals, Nothing sticks
The Basics: With two discs for Aerial, Kate Bush does not manage to create even one song that I would want to hear again, making one wish she stayed retired.
My only experience, before today, with Kate Bush was on Haley Westenra's otherwise unremarkable album Pure (reviewed here!); the best track on the album was a cover of Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights" and it was actually amazing. So, I set myself to finding a copy of Kate Bush's album that has that song. In the meantime, I picked up Kate Bush's album Aerial. This double disc set is almost enough to make me stop searching for The Kick Inside (which "Wuthering Heights" is on).
Broken into two discs, "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey," Kate Bush's album Aerial is best described as an esoteric combination of classic vocals and new fusion pop. A more accurate, though less flattering, description would be mush. There are songs on Aerial that sound like they could come from Loreena McKennitt ("Bertie" sounds like it could be a b-side to "The Mummer's Dance") others sound like they are fresh from Bjork. The result is an album that has less of a creative distinction than sloppiness.
Aerial is one of those albums one would like to at least be able to say that it portrays a strong feminine voice well, but alas that is not the case. "Mrs. Bartolozzi" is almost indecipherable and almost all of the tracks suffer at one point or another by having music that overruns the vocals. It's like Kate Bush thought that it might be better for her to play music over her vocals.
Given the quality of the lyrics, she might have been right.
First off, the lyrics to many of the songs are almost indecipherable. People often complain about how difficult rap music is to understand, but on my recent review of "Fear Of A Black Planet" by Public Enemy (reviewed here!) I had to look up none of the lyrics. The group was articulate. For Aerial I was looking up lyrics left and right either to understand what Bush was singing or to confirm what she was singing to see if I was missing the meaning ("Pi" threw me as Bush is largely just singing the digits of the number Pi).
The second thing is that this is an awfully repetitive album. On "King of the Mountain," the first track on "A Sea of Honey," she sings "Wind is whistling" over and over and over and over again and this review just sat up at one point and shouted, "We GET IT! Move on!" I'm not in the habit of yelling at my speakers. Similarly, "Joanni" repeats "Joanni, Joanni wears a golden cross . . . / Joanni, Joanni blows a kiss to God . . . / Joanni, Joanni, Joanni, Joanni blows a kiss to God . . ." The net effect of much of the album is that the listener is waiting around for Kate Bush to actually SAY SOMETHING.
The tragic aspect of Aerial is that when one finally understands what it is that Kate Bush is singing, they are still likely to be disappointed. In "Mrs. Bartolozzi" the only lyrics I understood based on the vocal and musical presentation were "washing machine" repeated over and over again. Can you imagine my disappointment when I looked up the lyrics and learned that the lines preceding "washing machine" being repeated was just ". . . I took my laundry basket / And put all the linens in it / And everything I could fit in it / All our dirty clothes that hadn't gone into the wash / And all your shirts and jeans and things / And put them in the new washing machine . . ." Don't get me wrong, there aren't nearly enough pop-rock whatever songs about doing daily chores like doing laundry, but wow, this is a disappointing song.
Lyrically, Aerial has the feeling of Kate Bush, after a twelve-year absence from making music, sitting up, looking around at her life as a parent and making songs out of the grocery list. I anticipated that literally, though it was not present on Aerial. But the effect is pretty much the same. She's singing about the most mundane aspects of life, life as a parent and it's boring when it can be understood. She's not making it into anything extraordinary. Aerial ends up as more of a narcoleptic experience than soothing or enjoyable.
And the music is not terribly original or enjoyable or even distinct. Outside the annoying birds chirping throughout the "A Sky Of Honey" disc - Bush seemed to find the most grating ones she could - I've heard it before. It's piano, keyboards, light drum, occasional pop, but mostly just musical mush.
Generally, the music is limited in scope to instrumentals that alternate between obvious pop ("Somewhere In Between") to the dregs of elevator music (most of the rest of the album). I am very much into female artists who create a diverse listening experience, real artists who push the envelope. Kate Bush might have done that once. Aerial she's signing the numbers from Pi and singing about doing laundry and the net effect is this is two discs not worth listening to. Perhaps Bush needs another twelve years to rediscover how to make something meaningful and worthwhile.
And that's the nice version of my phrasing for Aerial.
I can't pick one track that I'd even be willing to hear again.
For more distinctive female voices, check out my reviews of:
The Crossing - Sophie B. Hawkins
Glowstars - Heather Nova
In The Time Of Gods - Dar Williams
For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all my album and singles reviews!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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