The Bush era

Leafy lady Kate Bush's musical family tree sprouts cover versions and young seedlings
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Ms. Bush, originator

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SAT IN YOUR LAP: THE LATEST DAUGHTERS OF KATE BUSH FLESH OUT THIS WOMAN'S WORK

By Marke B.

Kate Bush was gifted with a fierce female originality at a time when the rock world was starved of it: her golden run of eccentric achievement in the late 1970s and early 1980s placed her next to Joni Mitchell in terms of adventurous — if not always intellectual — influence in the minds of aspiring young women singer-songwriters. (And there's some extremely perverse pleasure to be taken in the little factoid that her stunning 1985 EMI comeback album Hounds of Love snatched the top U.K. album slot from Madonna's Like A Virgin.)

But that gift was also a curse: Bush was so original in so many ways that it's easy to forget the myriad musical pathways she forged. This "artist in a female body" — as she famously protested when her panicked record company started pimping her rack on sleeves to shift units — has mostly been boiled down to spiritual oracle, swooping-voiced Sybil, and, ever since concept albums by women were banished to exile in Guyville, keeper of the idiosyncratic prog-rock flame. In other words, Stevie Nicks with a Fairlight synthesizer and a degree in Celtic mythology. Or else just plain weird.

Fortunately, musical weirdness is so much with us today that other Bush qualities are starting to be glimpsed through the babushka, including her production abilities, precocity, sincerity, humor, and unabashed gender-fucking. For the past three decades, it's never been rare for artists to be compared to Bush — mostly for childlike vocalizations or way with a silver space suit and Circe metaphor. But in our post-neo-neo-soul moment (sorry Wino), a new crop of female British singers has arisen that takes its cues, mostly acknowledged, from Bush's kaleidoscopic talent.

FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE

Without Kate Bush, flouncy freak-folker Florence Welch and her ever-changing backup band could be heard as a product of the unholy union of Devendra Banhart and Tori Amos — except those two probably wouldn't exist without Bush either. Florence grounds her lyrics in the sexually frantic Bush. "I must be the lion-hearted girl," she sings in the vid for "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" just before her wedding banquet table folds up into her coffin.

www.myspace.com/florenceandthemachinemusic

MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS

Marina and the Diamonds, a.k.a. the singular singer Marina Diamandis has been gaining huge traction with her excellent "I Am Not A Robot" track, calling up the more vulnerably affirmative, "Don't Give Up" Bush. But it's her screwy, cuckooing "Mowgli's Road" that effectively conjures up woozy Kate at a post-rave bonfire.

www.myspace.com/marinaandthediamonds

BAT FOR LASHES

Half-Pakistani lovely Natasha Khan works the gleaming edge of Bush's dark underworld glamour, and grounds her post-goth balladry and soft electro sparks in the sensual world. Her single "Daniel" de-Eltons the title character and places him among Bush's slightly menacing, jig-footed cosmic effigies.

www.myspace.com/batforlashes

MICACHU AND THE SHAPES

Mika Levi calls herself Micachu and spits out shiv-sharp blasts of dissonant micro-punk — seemingly the opposite of Bush's epic dramas. But Levi echoes Bush both in the sheer Englishness of her lyrics, the knockout oddity of her instrumentation and starry-eyed gender-bending. Micachu's rambunctious, exhilarating new album Jewelry (Rough Trade) could easily have been shaken out of Bush's backing track outtake archives.

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