Leafy lady Kate Bush's musical family tree sprouts cover versions and young seedlings
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.
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.
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.
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.
MICACHU AND THE SHAPES
With tune-yards, Tempo No Tempo
July 22, 8 pm., $10
155 Fell, SF
www.rickshawstop.com  ------------
MOTHER STANDS FOR COMFORT: KATE BUSH IN THE SOUNDS OF NOW
By Irwin Swirnoff
It's always exciting when you sense universal consciousness in motion. Like so many around me lately, I can't stop listening to Kate Bush. I play Hounds Of Love (EMI, 1985) from start to finish again and again, allowing a different song from the album to become my theme or guiding light for weeks at a time. I play The Dreaming (EMI, 1982) and let it spin in and out of my head. These songs are as dramatic as they are sincere. They conjure magic while maintaining an emotional core. Bush's undeniable integrity travels through her songs like a force of nature, from soft-lit soap opera to primal realms.
Many great records by other artists in the last few years have been stamped with undeniable Kate Bush moments. A new generation of musicians is learning that avant and pop sensibilities can coexist in exciting ways and that it is possible to blend the organic and the mechanical to create songs that soar with a mission. Here are some of today's cloudbusters.
GANG GANG DANCE
"House Jams" (from Saint Dymphna)
(from Saint Dymphna, Social Registry, 2008)
On its latest album, Gang Gang Dance not only embraces its love of the dance floor — it invites the spirit of Kate Bush to a psychedelic midnight rave.
"Skin Of The Night"
(from Saturdays =Youth, Mute, 2008)
No strangers to teenage mellow drama and melodrama, M83 makes music with a cinematic quality, much in the same way that Kate Bush's records sound like movies unto themselves.
(from Laulu Laakson Kukista, Fonal, 2008)
This Finnish group roams through a landscape that varies from dusty fairytale to psychedelic future. This track is by far the most dancepop — and Bush-like — moment on a record that also channels Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, and Robert Wyatt.
(Drag City, 2006)
Many eccentric female artists are compared to either Kate Bush or Björk by lazy critics, but few actually reach that kind of ecstatic individuality. Joanna Newsom is one. Her complete belief in her vision is apparent in these commanding, flawlessly executed songs.
(from Dance Mother, IAMSOUND)
Much like their New York City neighbors Gang Gang Dance, Telepathe calls Bush to mind when it branches out from its experimental roots into a slow burning state that's ready for the dancefloor.
"Running Up That Hill"
(from Night Drive, Italians Do it Better, 2007))
It takes major guts to cover this Bush composition, a contender for one of the most poignant songs of the last quarter century. The air of magic and mystery here is very Kate.
The debut solo record from Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife is more internal and intense than the dance floor stylings of her well-known group. Andersson plays with different voices and personas while creating sounds that are creepy and comforting. The result feels like a perfect contemporary response to Bush's explorations of 20 years ago.