I’ve had Aerial in hand now for about a week, listening to it, and thinking on it. This is Kate Bush’s return to recording after a 12 year hiatus. It’s a two CD set, with the first CD consisting of some very personal songs, and the second being a nine track 1970’s style concept disk. As one reviewer commented, if Pink Floyd had been looking for a female lead singer in 1979, Kate would have been perfect.
Much of the press, especially in the UK, has simply been gushing over this two CD set. They’re calling it "a triumph", "another masterpiece" and so on. It’s not bad, and welcome after a 12 year absence, but it doesn’t qualify as a masterpiece in my book. It’s not Hounds of Love, or The Dreaming. It’s recognizably Kate Bush — perhaps a little too recognizable as one could easily imagine this album following a year or two after the Red Shoes Diaries, rather than 12 years later. It has a dated feel about it. Kate’s voice is maturing. She doesn’t attempt the higher part of her register any longer, and her tone is less rich and a little more reedy than before. Not that she isn’t still a terrific singer — but her instrument is a slightly different instrument.
There are some great cuts on the first disk. The best is How to Be Invisible, with its chorus evoking Shakespeare’s three witches. On Pi, Kate sings … the digits of Pi. Quirky, but interesting. Bertie is musically terrific, but lyrically saccharine. It’s an Elizabethan style folk song, performed on period instruments, with terrific vocals.
Much has been made of the second disk by various reviewers. While I think it’s musically adventurous, I am afraid I don’t share their enthusiasm. The nine tracks have a sameness about them, despite the fact that they are instrumented differently. Perhaps it’s the fact that the last two cuts are basically a 20 minute extended dance mix. Or perhaps the era of the concept album is over. Lose the sappy strings, Kate. Vary the tempi.
As a Kate Bush fan — one who owns everything she’s ever recorded commercially — I am happy to have a new Kate Bush recording to listen to. But I can’t hide the truth that I’m more interested in what she’s going to do next, now that she’s recording again.