Since she re-surfaced after her 12 year hiatus with 2005’s ‘Aerial’, Kate Bush’s output has been many things including gorgeously expansive and broad. But what it hasn’t been for many years is densely surreal, qualities which characterised the best of her early work. Until ‘Wild Man’ that is.
Pre- ‘The Red Shoes’ there was an unpredictability and the sense of being a passenger into the wiles of Bush’s uniquely bonkers brain. Since ‘Aerial’ it’s been more steady, calm waters. This sonic sparseness was echoed by her lyrical conceits, which shifted away from magic realism and fantasy to elemental themes of flora, fauna and , um, washing machines.
For those of us who have been secretly longing for a return to the unflinchingly bizarre and Bush’s ability to conjure up strange new worlds, ‘Wild Man’ is a deep joy.
Lyrically we’re in a literal wilderness, where the ‘Wild Man’ of the title is a revealed to be a Yeti-type figure roaming the wiles of the Himalayas. Bush’s whispered vocal delivery of the lyrics (which are full of geographical intrigue and century old myth) is full of the right balance of fear, intrigue and empathy towards the plight of the shadowy figure (“I can hear your cry/Echoing around the mountain side/You sound lonely,” she sings).
As for the the chorus, it bursts forth mid-eruption; a choir of strange voices; echoing the ‘Wild Man”s own explosion out of habitation into civilization in the narrative of the song. Bush tackles this by a multiple layering of voices, creating several personas and the atmosphere of a village set adrift by the sudden intrusion. It’s a style which recalls some of her most classic work.
Musically, we’ve moved on subtly from the pared down production of ‘Director’s Cut’, and on ‘Wild Man’ a guitar riff-plays pan-Asian and ponderous, but there’s also a layering of sounds in the chorus (tinkling percussion, a bedrock of organs), which suggests her 80s heyday.
Multiple listens on, the references just keep coming; there’s ‘Scary Monsters And Super Creeps’ era Bowie and some of the ‘Tusk’ era Fleetwood Mac and her own ‘Sensual World’ and ‘The Dreaming’.
After the domestic bliss of ‘Aerial’, it’s a deep joy to have Kate roam the narrative wiles of her imagination. The result is her strongest single for decades.