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.

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