Viewing posts by Christine Kelley

Strange Phenomena

Strange Phenomena (demo)
Strange Phenomena
Hammersmith Odeon

In “Strange Phenomena,” we have another statement of intent from Kate Bush. Unlike most of Bush’s songs, it’s a purely conceptual rather than narrative work. “Strange Phenomena” is populated by the esoteric and the inconclusive, dwelling in the liminal spaces of everyday life and exploring its unexplained coincidences. It nods to the physical and the supernatural in equal turn, suggesting the two aren’t separate entities but different compartments of life, in league with one another, conspiring to make life exciting. In short, it’s everything The Kick Inside takes stock in and values.

“Strange Phenomena” famously begins with an arpeggiating (A/F) ode to menstruation, “the phase of the moon when people tune in.” In her typical fashion, Kate Bush refers to menstruation as “the punctual blues,” suggesting both a musical quality and a natural rhythm to this particular bodily function (she also refers to it as something “every girl” knows about, but in her defense trans issues were not a topic of national conversation in 1978). Throughout The Kick Inside, Bush has made a case that all functions of the body are a thing of beauty, whether those be ...

Scares Me Silly

Scares Me Silly

Throughout her career, Kate Bush has retained an unusual level of creative security. Outside of her demo era, there’s not a large number of Bush bootlegs in circulation. There’s no empire of lost Bush songs like there are lost Bob Dylan or Beatles tracks. Fans are mostly left to speculate on tidbits of information one gets about lost Bush songs, such as the Cathy demos’ “Go Now While You Can” and the title track of Never for Ever. Following the arc of Bush’s career entails sticking almost entirely to her studio work.

Bush retains a huge amount of creative control over her work. One of the reasons she releases music so slowly is her need to hone her work to be exactly how she wants it. Losing control over her circumstances certainly hasn’t led to her finest albums being created. Perhaps setting her own parameters is an active terror to Bush.

The Kick Inside sessions seem to only have one outtake: “Scares Me Silly,” a bootleg rather than a bonus track from some official release. Listening to it in 2019, it’s not hard to understand why it was never released. “Scares Me Silly” is loopy, particularly ...

Feel It

Feel It
Tour of Life (Stockholm)
Tour of Life (London)

Out of the 13 songs on The Kick Inside, 12 are fairly maximalist in their productions, sporting a few musicians on each track. Even the quieter piano ballads like “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” and “The Kick Inside” are accompanied by orchestras. The result is an album that, while not necessarily carried by its production, measures itself by a standard of heavily produced and instrumentation-based albums.

It’s long been remarked that Kate Bush’s primary instrument is her voice. Even when her melodies are idiosyncratic and sprawling and her albums’ productions demand an audience’s ear, listeners always talk about her voice first. Even an instrumental track like “Night Scented Stock” is guided by Bush’s vocals. Her most recent collection of new songs, 50 Words for Snow, takes a back-to-basics approach of voice-and-piano that Bush started her career with. While the Fairlight will guide Bush towards her best work, there’s hardly a more powerful duo in popular music than Bush and her piano.

“Feel It” is an exceedingly intimate affair, the only song on The Kick Inside to have no session musicians. It’s Bush alone at her piano, saying ...

Them Heavy People

This post was supported by 17 backers on Patreon.

Them Heavy People
Music video
Saturday Night at the Mill
Sound in S (Japan)
Seiko commercial
Seiko commercial 2
Saturday Night Live (start at 7:25)
Legs and Co
Tour of Life
Xmas special

“There is a cosmic law which says that every satisfaction must be paid for with a dissatisfaction.”
— G. I. Gurdjieff.

The philosopher-mystic G. I. Gurdjieff’s spiritual path The Fourth Way presents a response to three ways of enlightenment: disciplining the body, emotions, or mind (these are the paths of the fakir, the monk, and yogi, but this isn’t a theology blog). Rather than focusing on becoming one’s true self through just one of these channels, Gurdjieff taught a Fourth Way which prioritized all of them at once. This was a way for people to learn their true selves by engaging with this path in daily working life without undertaking John the Baptistian asceticism. Gurdjieff’s doctrine caught on with such figures as P. L. Travers, Robert Anton Wilson, Peter Brook, and became influential in its disparate, scattered way.

The reference to Gurdjieff in “Them Heavy People” is notable for how it tips an already offbeat ...

Room for the Life

Room for the Life
Tour of Life

This post has been supported by 17 backers on Patreon.

The women’s lib movement (or movements, really) of the Seventies are a battlefield you could write several blogs about. Feminism was becoming impossible to ignore as a mainstream presence, with books like Robin Wright’s anthology Sisterhood is Powerful and Angela Davis’ Women, Race, and Class coming to light.. Whatever position one was going to take on gender, it would have to be a reaction to feminism in some form.

A couple entries ago we made it clear that Kate Bush is at the bare minimum not a conscious feminist. Her work is useful for women’s sexual liberation and art, but Bush’s beliefs are broadly conservative. I’ve gone on at length about Bush’s soft spot for men — she’s generally inclined to treat them well and make them paragons of beauty and virtue. Sometimes she’ll even do this at the expense of failing to call men out when they commit immoral acts, as we’ll see in “Babooshka.” Bush is a heterosexual woman, and one with an unusually positive view of men. One of the primary effects of this preference is that her songs ...

An Angry Gay's Overdue Screed on Bohemian Rhapsody

This essay first showed up on Medium on the 28th of January. El chided me for not posting it on Eruditorum Press, so I kept an eye out for an opportunity to repost it. With the Oscars coming up and likely to reward this piece of trash for being the toxic garbage it is, I figured pushing my take into the limelight would be a good move. Given that I'm compeltely satisfied with the essay (something you'll never hear me say about my work), I've chosen to not edit it at all and am presenting the piece as it initially appeared. With that in mind, here is me getting extremely pissed off at Bohemian Rhapsody. While we're here, my Patreon has made a reasonably successful debut. If you like this essay, consider checking it out.

It’s probably pointless to write about Bohemian Rhapsody months after its release. Everyone has decided how they feel about it by this point. Numerous intelligent thinkpieces have been written about this film already. The long-term critical and popular consensus on it has already been decided. One more review in the mix as Bohemian Rhapsody is getting showered with awards seems like ...

James and the Cold Gun

James and the Cold Gun
Hammersmith Odeon

I’ve recently set up a Patreon, which has gotten off to a good start with 14 Patrons. If you enjoy my work, consider pitching me some money over there. My financial situation is strained to say the least, and every bit helps. Plus you might get to read some writing you’ll enjoy. In the meantime, here’s “James and the Cold Gun.”

A ragtag group of session musicians is enveloped in an infernal red backlight, which makes good on its promise to swallow the entire stage. A cowgirl from some dark dimension swaggers onstage, posing in a black and gold robe for the presumably dumbfounded audience. For close to nine minutes, the cowgirl sweeps across the stage, wailing over the cacophony of her band and illustrating her lyrics with suitably on-the-nose gestures. It culminates, as any Chekov-honoring song featuring “gun” in the title does, with a murder, as the cowgirl blasts the life out of an adversary, each gunshot met beat-for-beat by accompanying drums. Contorting her body in a freakish victory dance, the cowgirl ends the song lifting a rifle above her head in triumph, as her audience roars its approval.

“James and ...

L'Amour Looks Something Like You

Album version
Tour of Life (Paris)

1978 was the year of Kate Bush both in terms of her career narrative and the press’s fixation on her. The fansite Gaffaweb records no less than 34 print interviews with Bush from that year alone. It was Bush’s most prolific year for press coverage: the press latched onto every detail they could find about her, as it does, and what couldn’t be directly evidenced was inferred. So Bush was treated like any other “eccentric” media sensation: an object of spectacle having more to do with her perceived ostentatiousness than her actual work.

There are strongly gendered dynamics at play in this. Read Bush’s press around the time and you’ll find all the standard tropes in journalism about women: comparisons to other female artists (Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Lyndsey de Paul are frequent points of nonsensical comparison), calling Bush a “hippie girl,” and the inevitable objectification of Bush herself (there’s more than one article in which Bush is made the target of a journalist’s foot fetish). The nadir of this fixation came when a promotional photo of Bush taken by rock photographer Gered Mankowitz achieved ubiquity. The infamous picture stages Kate ...

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