When we asked our contributors to tell us their albums of the year, we also offered them the opportunity to retrospectively review any of their Top 10 list that we hadn’t reviewed already, we didn’t expect Ruth Booth to send us a Kate Bush review.
50 Words for Snow
21 November 2011
by Ruth Booth
Now, this is the kind of move you might expect from The Darkness. Or to take a lot of her once peers, one of those pensioned big names, long on contract, short on inspiration and hefty of tax bill. But Kate Bush? A seasonal record? Well, huh. Maybe we missed the Rapture after all.
Yet Bush’s first album of all-new material in six years, 50 Words for Snow carries on rather smoothly from where 2005’s Aerial left off. With its poignant mother-son duet (yes, that is her boy on there) set over rolling piano lines, ‘Snowflake’ is something of a follow-up to 2005’s ‘Bertie’. This whole album flows like Aerial‘s Winter twin – it even has its own ‘Pi’ in ’50 Words for Snow’, recited by Stephen Fry like a kid listing Naughty Swears, over warbling electronica. Yet 50 Words for Snow is more a loosely related collection of dark little tales rather than what’s strictly tagged a Theme Album. There’s the ghost that haunts ‘Lake Tahoe’, the stalked yeti of ‘Wild Man’, and in ‘Misty’, a very adult Christmas tale that Aled Jones’ Mum and Dad would’ve never let him near. Since Aerial, Bush has picked up a husky touch to her vocals, and it’s a sensual, yet disturbing flavour in ‘Misty’ – but then, this does come in the middle of a song about having sex with a Snowman. After all, who expected Kate Bush to write a conventional Christmas album?
Watch a video for ‘Misty’ by Kate Bush:
That’s not to say there isn’t the odd misstep: the biggest being the parping Elton John duet, ‘Snowed in at Wheeler Street’, which isn’t a patch on Aerial’s work with Rolf Harris. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. Nevertheless, domesticity still suits her, and certainly enough not to blunt her experimental tendencies, nor her wry humour. In ‘Lake Tahoe’, Snowflake doubles as the name for the lost dog, while ‘Misty’ doesn’t shy away from prospect of a lover who “melts in (my) hand”. It’s a strange habit in alternative circles that maturity is often written to rhyme with mediocrity. In the case of Kate Bush, settling down still sounds like the best thing she’s ever done.
Sounds Like: Kate Bush.
Top Track: Snowflake, Lake Tahoe.