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Kate Bush - The Kick Inside CD (album) cover

THE KICK INSIDE

Kate Bush

 

Prog Related

3.93 | 194 ratings

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rogerthat
4 stars The Kick Inside is the sensational debut of an incredible artist. The then 19 year old Kate Bush surely paved the way for the likes of Bjork to rise and shine in the 90s. If Joni Mitchell debunked any sexist myths about a woman's ability to write great pop and rock music in the early part of the 70s, Kate Bush arriving at the tail end of the same decade popularized the notion of an artsy, theatrical, weird female artist.

It is often said that there is always room at the top and Kick Inside's strong opening is perhaps more proof. As a young artist only just making her way, Kate Bush manages to establish her own unique style in a decade full of prog rock heavyweights. You may trace influences but she doesn't imitate anybody in particular and already has a sound that can be distinctly recognized after listening to her songs a few times.

Indeed, if stunning opener Moving does remind you of some music, it might likely be some of Tori Amos's early work. ;) But Kate Bush writes far more unusual chord progressions and the notion of resemblances with Tori is soon dispelled. Her music is also evidently very atmospheric, without necessarily leaning heavily on Pink Floyd. Meanwhile, her vocal style is influenced by her idols Gabriel and Hammill but she also sings bel canto, so, once again, she sounds quite unlike anybody else.

And the beauty of Kate Bush's work lies in how this unusual combination - theatrical vocals, unusual piano chords and atmospheric arrangements - resolves most satisfyingly. Her music is not formally prog but it has many characteristics also found in prog that prog rock listeners would enjoy.

Kate Bush also seems to have a knack for writing a surefire pop lick. Kite for instance is a very catchy pop song while yet full of character. It was not however released as a single, being the B-side, instead, to the no.1 UK hit Wuthering Heights. A most unusual pop 'hit', that, mysterious, creepy and enchanting. The piano chords following the verse are so mesmerising that I can only hopelessly gush about their effect as I listen to it at the time of writing. It resolves into a more run of the mill chorus than Moving and the guitar coda is also more generic which might have aided the commercial success of this single.

Some other hallmarks of her music like the prominence of harps are also already evident. There is still some way to go yet for the development of fretless bass to approach its eventual importance in her sound. Also, on two songs, namely Saxophone Song and Man with the child in his eyes, she shuns her theatrical attack and goes for a mellow tone. She sounds very sincere in a Sandy Denny vein but a tad unremarkable with this approach. Not surprisingly, such a tone is nowhere in evidence by the time of The Dreaming. While Kate Bush's 'natural' voice is beautiful, it lacks presence and power so even if I get off sometimes on her overwrought theatrics, I find that more appealing and memorable.

Her trademark theatrics do help shore up the second half of the album. For it swiftly slides downhill post Wuthering Heights. It's not as if the songs suddenly start to stink. On the contrary, James and the Cold Gun for instance is a very catchy song and Feel It anticipates some aspects of her subsequent work. But Kate is unable to sustain the marvellous impression created by the first half - and it does set the bar really high.

The second half sounds more like an alternative Kick Inside wherein it is just a regular debut of a promising pop artist with some distinct stylistic aspects and the songs tend to resolve to safety rather than thrill. The two halves put together is a fairly schizophrenic experience and I am sure a lot of fans just avoid the second half altogether, even though it is decidedly not nearly that bad.

Because said inconsistency mars the impact of this album quite a bit, I cannot rate this album 5 stars. But it's a very strong 4 stars that I do give and has some of my favourite Kate Bush tracks (as well as that of, I am sure, many other fans).

rogerthat | 4/5 |

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