The Kick Inside is the début album from a nineteen year old Kate Bush that makes this twenty-one year old music enthusiast feel pretty inadequate. I mean, some of these songs were written when Bush was as young as thirteen, and the production as a whole feels more accomplished than many contemporaries twenty years her senior. If it makes anyone feel any better, not all us can get three year’s support from Pink Floyd legend Dave Gilmour (demos with different instrumentations can be found as early as 1975), but added with his contacts and Kate Bushes demonstrable talents this results in the most accomplished début album we have covered on this Record Club so far.
Kate Bushes musical style is one that will be hard to pin down throughout these write ups; that’s what the prefix of art was invented for. It is a mix of classical production and contemporary baroque pop, yet this album contains the heavy conceptual and instrumentation found in progressive rock. Not just on the obvious culprits like “James and the Cold Gun” (whose guitar-led introduction sounds remarkably like Pink Floyd), but the varied and wonderful percussion on “Room For the Life” (with amazing layered guitar fills and what I believe to be clavinet) and the early synth work on the track which inspired the album’s famous album cover; “Kite”*. The production throughout The Kick Inside by Andrew Powell is a bizarre clash between the lush bombast of the musical styles which helped birthed it, and yet still a strange sense of control; this is an album which has a song called “The Saxophone Song,” and the titular instrument doesn’t show itself until more than halfway through the track.
Just as accomplished as the layered compositions are the lyrics that compliment them. Kate Bush’s love affair with great literary figures like Tennyson and James Joyce would continue to show themselves throughout her career, but her most famous demonstration of this love is in the iconic “Wuthering Heights.” Kate Bush knew she had something special with this track, choosing this as the lead single instead of the more obvious “James and the Cold Gun,” and as a result became the first female artist with a self-penned #1 Hit in the UK. That is not strictly true, of course as many of these words come from the pages of Emily Bronte herself. But this focus on a specific point of view gives you the sense that Kate Bush has not only read these works (unlike songs like, say, Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”) but that she has lived in the world of the novel as Cathy herself.
The skilful lyrics are not just exemplified here though, but throughout the whole album. Whether that be the subtle ode to the interlocking cycles of menstruation (as well as general feelings of déjà vu) in “Strange Phenomena,” with those watery synths and guitars that fluctuate like waves, or the clash between birth and the mythic gods in the amazing closing track “The Kick Inside,” Kate is not only unafraid to talk about her sensuality but naturally assumes the audience is mature enough to treat it as literary as she does. After many decades and many edgy teen stars going through their “adult phase”, it is not shocking that a teenage Kate talks about these subjects; it is shocking that she is so actually adult about it.
My only major con of this album is that, while Bush’s youthful soprano voice is obviously skilful from the very outset, it is something that can take some acclimatising towards on first listens (particularly with “Moving” throwing listeners so far into the deep end, and the bizarrely pronounced high note introduction of the otherwise gorgeous piano “Feel It.”). Kate Bush’s voice would go on to be electronically manipulated on The Dreaming and present more bass on Hounds of Love. But for now, after initial apprehensions, it is still nice to hear the energetic voice of something venturing into the new world of stardom with the music of a hardened veteran.
Even more than PJ Harvey’s Dry and (bizarre comparison) The Beastie Boys License to Ill, Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside is the most gratifying first listen we have covered so far on Record Club. From the whale noises to the synths to the classic instruments it is shows an artist who out of the gate presents a unique voice that would go on to help influence not just the landscape for female songwriters, but music in general (with fans as varied as Johnny Rotten and Tupac Shakur). But first, she would have to go through the difficult sophomore….
What did you think, though?
Kate Bush Album Rankings
- The Kick Inside
* Though, not to derail the conversation at hand, it sounds way to similar to this piece of Japanese Christian Propaganda for my liking