In a new series, Team LOUD WOMEN revisits classic albums by British female artists/female-led bands since punk. ‘British’ because the common view of women in punk/rock is so US dominated, so to redress the balance and highlight records you may have missed. ‘Classic’ as in approx. 1977-2012 i.e. the 35 year period before the current explosion of women in music. Here we go …
Kate Bush – The Dreaming (1982)
by Kris Smith
Kate Bush’s #1 every-household-had-one compilation ”The Whole Story” (1986) wasn’t – the whole story that is.
Expensively-produced industry-backed pop by a musical prodigy might seem the polar opposite of the DIY/punk spirit, except, except… musically self-directed, produced and managed, building her own studio, controlling her own publishing, and making her own boundary-pushing artistic choices, Kate Bush was also responsible for a lot of firsts: first female with a self-written UK #1 single and a self-written album, first British female with a #1 album and – with the title track from ‘The Dreaming’ – surely the first pop single about the exploitation of Aboriginal land for uranium mining.
While her ‘difficult’ 4th LP isn’t the only time Kate Bush addressed unusual subjects, it might be the album that does it with the most new wave energy, beginning with odd-pop banger ‘Sat in Your Lap’ (the only accompanying single to make the Top 40), on which she wrestles her Catholicism and worries about knowing everything, and returning to post-punk percussiveness throughout the album, particularly on ‘Leave It Open,’ a song which worries about receptivity to the wrong things but ends on a vow to “let the weirdness in.”
Such introspections are interspersed with storytelling on tracks like ‘There Goes A Tenner,’ featuring mockney bank robbers, ‘Night of the Swallow’, which had enough pipes and whistles to get a 7″ release in Eire, and ‘Pull Out The Pin,’ an extraordinary track sung from the point of view of a Vietnamese soldier fighting the American War.
Check your pulse if you’re not moved by the chorus of ‘Suspended in Gaffa’ (some brilliant titles on this record) as Kate wrestles more with her Catholicism and worries about getting what she wants, the based-on-a-true-story grief of ‘Houdini,’ or ‘All the Love’ which interrogates loneliness and ends with answerphone samples of her friends saying goodbye.
The album soars to a stunning finale with the rhythmic, allegorical ‘Get Out of My House’:
“This house is full of m-m-my mess
this house is full of m-m-mistakes
this house is full of m-m-madness
this house is full of, full of, full of fight!”
At the height of punk in 1977, Kate Bush said to an interviewer:
“male music – the good stuff – really puts you against the wall and that’s what I’d like to do. I’d like my music to intrude.”
Unrest assured, ‘The Dreaming’ will get under your skin.