Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kate Bush - "Hounds of Love" (the song remains the same)

Let's do one more Kate Bush cover song...

"Hounds of Love" is the third single released from Kate's 1985 LP "Hounds of Love" (the single came out in 1986). An ode to the fear of commitment, it is a great song but it took me a while to discover this in part because of the mid-1980s production techniques that worked well enough on "Running Up That Hill" don't really make the song "Hounds of Love" stand out.

It wasn't until a few years ago when Johan turned me onto The Futureheads and their 2004 self-titled LP where they do an excellent cover of "Hounds of Love" that I really appreciated the original. The Futureheads transform it from an art/prog rock song and strip it down to just a simple, new wave rock song. While busy channeling The Knack, The Futureheads speed up the tempo, replace the keyboards with guitars, and completely embrace the background vocals that otherwise sound a little awkward on Kate's version. And if that's not a solid formula for how to improve a rock song, then I don't know what is...

Kate Bush: studio version, TOTP version

The Futureheads: studio version, official video, live version, unplugged/live version

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kate Bush - "Running Up That Hill" (the song remains the same)

Part two of my "please do more Kate Bush covers" series...

"Running Up That Hill" is probably my favorite Kate Bush song, at least as performed by Kate herself. This is probably in part due to the song coming out in 1985 (on the "Hounds of Love" LP) and trading in the production excesses of the late 70s for, well... the production excesses of the mid-80s, but at least those are more palatable to my GenX sensibilities.

People seem to have different ideas about what the song is actually about; Kate herself is quoted as saying it is simply about swapping roles (Male <-> Female) in order to understand the other. I tend to think there is more to it than that: despite the upbeat feel, the song seems to be a jumbled mess of sexuality ("do you want to know how it feels?"), codependency ("tell me, we both matter, don't we?") and possession ("let me steal this moment from you now"). Basically, Heathcliff and Catherine again.

I'm pretty sure Placebo agrees with my darker, more sinister interpretation. Available on some versions of 2003's "Sleeping With Ghosts" as well as 2006's "Meds", their cover of "Running Up That Hill" is sparse, menacing, desolate and desperate. Given that Placebo has made a career out of mining the androgynous / ambiguous sexuality thing (cf. 1996's "Nancy Boy" -- thanks to Johan for originally pointing me to this version), they were obviously destined to cover this song.

Placebo's video is edited together from the submissions of various fans lip synching; it adds an additional disturbing fanboy element to an already claustrophobic song. Kate's version features more interpretive dancing ("hooray!"), but at least it makes the meaning of the song that much more obvious as the couple are alternatively intertwined and then tackling each other when they separate.

In my review of "Wuthering Heights", I admitted that I like the Pat Benatar version better than the original Kate Bush version. That's not the case here: I like Placebo's version as a sinister, 20 year update to the original, but Kate's version remains my favorite.

Kate Bush: YouTube.

Kate Bush & David Gilmour (from The Secret Policeman's Third Ball): YouTube. (Obligatory "David helped `discover' Kate" reference).

Placebo: Official version. Fan video version. Live version.

2017-01-31 edit: This cover by Wye Oak is too good ignore.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kate Bush - "Wuthering Heights" (the song remains the same)

Simply put, Kate Bush is an amazing song writer and more artists should cover her songs. To make this point, my next few entries will cover Kate Bush songs and exemplary covers by various artists. We'll begin with "Wuthering Heights", the first single from her 1978 debut LP "The Kick Inside".

The song is from the point of view of Catherine Earnshaw from the novel "Wuthering Heights", covering her tempestuous relationship with Heathcliff. Using Emily Bronte's novel as a song topic might seem unusual, even pretentious, but for late 1970s British progressive rock that was par for the course.

In 1980, Pat Benatar would cover "Wuthering Heights" on her second LP "Crimes of Passion". And as much as I like Kate Bush, I have to confess that I like Pat's version better: it is less modish and more conventional. As far as I know, Pat never released this as a single or made a video for it. The Kate Bush videos on the other hand... well, remember it was 1978 and interpretive dance was considered good. Regardless, the song is excellent.

Kate Bush: YouTube (red dress version); YouTube (white dress version); YouTube (live 1978).

Pat Benatar: studio version, live 2005

And just for fun, Monty Python's semaphore version: YouTube (about 1:20 in).