First, you should know where I stand on the subject of Kate. I’m of the school that The Dreaming was her best album, a masterpiece, the gold standard where Kate Bush albums are concerned. Never for Ever comes in second, followed by The Kick Inside and Hounds of Love. Lionheart is a write-off. I didn’t even buy it when I went to CD, but I think my son picked it up. The Sensual World has only two good songs, the title track and “Heads We’re Dancing” (which I misattributed to The Red Shoes in an earlier post). The Red Shoes is worse than Lionheart because, among other things, it suffers from Faust’s Law of Cult Music Acts.
That said, my review in a nutshell is:
- The Good News: Aerial is another Hounds of Love.
- The Bad News: That’s only one of the two disks in the set.
Basically Aerial is one disk (A Sea of Honey) of individual songs and one disk (A Sky of Honey) that’s a longer conceptual piece. I wasn’t mightily impressed with Disc One. Only two songs, the Elvis-themed single King of the Mountain and the Joan of Arc-themed* Joanni caught my ear. How to Be Invisible is half good, and the rest, including a musical ode to Pi (where the lyrics are numbers) and a gushy love note to her young son, are largely disposable. As my son put it, “Disc One sounds like it’s a collection of B-sides.” He wondered if perhaps she originally intended A Sea of Honey to be the release, but Bush’s label wanted a single, so she put together a bunch of filler songs (this interview in USA Today belies that theory, but on the other hand, she has a record to push). Ugh.
On the other hand, A Sky of Honey is a reverie about birds and art and love that grows on me with repeated listening. In fact, it grew on me during the first listening. Taking it track by track, I was tempted to write it off, but the songs build on each other nicely until the whole thing becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s most like the Ninth Wave section of Hounds of Love.
So taken by disks, I’d rank A Sea of Honey slightly above The Sensual World and A Sky of Honey I’d tie with Hounds of Love. Put together, Aerial ranks lower than Hounds by a good margin.
Or, as my son put it, “if you threw out all the bad stuff, you’d have one really good album.”
That pretty much sums it up.
Except for one other question. “Was it worth the twelve year wait?”
If more than a couple of years pass between releases by an artist you like, the wait is never worth it. Call it Faust’s Law of Escalating Expectations.
And that’s two laws in one day. That’s enough. Any more, and I’m going to have to hang out my shingle.
Listening: Kate Bush, Aerial (album on iPod Shuffle)
* I should note that Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark played the Joan of Arc card – twice on the same album (the brilliant Architecture and Morality).