Kate Bush’s forthcoming album ‘Director’s Cut’ is released on May 16. Here’s our track-by-track response upon hearing it for the first time
Every new Kate Bush album I recall being released has been met with a reception akin to a new moon landing; reverential, awe-filled and cloaked in mystery. So it is with ‘Director’s Cut’, Bush’s first since 2005’s ‘Aerial’.
When news filtered in from Cathy-towers that the woman who said: “I can’t possible think of old songs of mine because they’re past now” would be, um, re-making some of her older songs, heads were scratched. It may seem odd that Bush – known for her pioneering methods of studio layering – has decided to strip these songs back to their cores, instead of doing something more progressive with them, but after a few listens, her decision makes perfect sense.
The album is very much the Son Of ‘Aerial’; full of silence, space and maturity. If one misses the bold warmth present in the older versions, you can’t fault Bush’s modus operandi which seems to be; slow thing down and focus on the lyrics.
Flower Of The Mountain
Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses is finally set to Bush’s music as she originally intended it to be in 1989. Her matured vocal have touch of the languid Eartha Kitt’s about them, and the meshing of the words from the early 20th century plus a floaty rhythm track creates an atmosphere of timelessness.
Song Of Solomon
Continuing the forthright, in love-with-love mood, Bush repositions her most emotional bold, straightforward songs (“don’t want your bullshit, just want your sexuality“) as teetering on the edge fragile, thanks to tinkling guitars which mimic the transparency of a love that is close to collapse. There’s also the first goose-bump inducing moment of the album; The Trio Bulgarka’s stunning, mid-point entrance.
What was previously a slightly clattering mass of sonics is now allowed to breathe. The 90s loop has been replace by live drums and tempo shifted down a notch. It’s more affecting than the original and great to hear her letting rip vocally (“WHO’S OVER THERE?/WHO’S ON THE RIGHT?!” she belts) for the first time in years.
With it’s re-imagining of the perky PC as ‘Fitter, Happier’ styled robohuman plus the extra two minutes of harmonica ‘jamming’ at the end, it divided fans when it was released earlier this month. But on closer inspection, the extended version suggests she’s become the computer of her dreams/nightmares. Www.weird (sorry).
The Red Shoes
Much more than the 93 version, this feels more in the spirit of an ancient folk tune. The ‘DC’ take is all one note jangling and malicious lyrical intent (“They’re gonna to make her dance till her legs fall off!” chant the cackling Greek chorus at one point).
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This Woman’s Work
The much loved classic is re-made with Bush controversially replacing piano with an electric keyboard. With the knowledge that Bush is herself now a mother, this tale of soon to be parenthood is given a new gravitas. And while this version resonates in a deeper way than the original, you can’t help thinking that this will be the one whose merits (vs the old version) will be debated in internet forums for years to come.
Moments Of Pleasure
Things hush to a funeral pace, as ‘Moments…’ sees Bush alone with her grand piano, scoring an emotional double whammy along with ‘The Woman’s Work’. Michael Kamen’s orchestration have been erased (along with the “just being alive/it can really hurt/These moments we’re given/are a gift from time” lines) and in its place is a Christmas sounding choir and a paired down energy that recalls 2005’s devastating ‘A Coral Room’.
Her vocals are almost unbearably mournful, bringing out all the sense of loss in the song and replacing the sense of wonder in the original. It might just be time for that ‘I’ve got something in my eye’ gag….
Never Be Mine
What got lost in the originals’ murky production is re-captured on this tale of unrequited love. Lines like “the thrill and the hurting’” really hit home. Vocally she sounds most like the Bush of old and when the Trio Bulgarka come in it’s beautiful. A definite highlight.
’Top Of The City’
Like ‘Never Be Mine’, this version makes you feels like you’re hearing the depth of this song for the first time. This happens around the second verse when you realise Bush is drawing you into the dream of urban autonomy as a metaphor for feeling emotionally invisible.
And So Is Love
“We used to say ‘Ah, hell we’re young’/But now we see that life is sad and so is love” sang Bush in 93. Here she substitutes ‘sad’ for ‘sweet’. It’s a subtle difference, but a significant one. Singing the song in her new lower register, it’s the sound of the contentment of mature love, but with the knowledge of the heartache that has gone before.
This is the most unrecognisable revamp, it’s totally altered from its original version. Funk-pyrotechnics have given way to the sound of a bar-room Kinks knocking out a country cover. We’re a bit shocked by it to be honest.
Bush successfully re-invents selections from the latter period of her catalogue. I wasn’t going to say the metamorphosis of these songs is like a fine wine maturing but… it’s like a fine wine maturing. There, I’ve said it.