Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kate Bush and Molly Bloom

Sensuous indeed! Yes. 1989 saw some of the UK's greatest alternative albums - The Cure's Disintegration (indeed, like Hounds of Love, one of the best LPs ever), Tears For Fears' Seeds of Love, Depeche Mode's Violator, and of course, KB's The Sensual World. The adjectives dark, moody, subfusc, elusive, melancholic, sultry, capricious, even carnal, can't describe the album as aptly as "sensual." Kate's soothingly beckoning vocals have an almost orgasmic feel to them, passing it along to every song on the LP. Musically rich, The Sensual World has an eclectic mix of Balkan, traditional Irish and contemporary rock influences (thanks in part to Kate's mentor, David Gilmour). Add to these, the detailed arrangement of the variegated musical instruments and Kate's enchanting vocals, and you get an LP best enjoyed in loneliness. (Some would call it masturbation.)

The title track, in all its serenity, talks of the agitated fire that is lust (more on that later). Following it, is the total rock out "Love and Anger", with a fantastic solo by none other than Gilmour himself. "The Fog" is the most complicated and inaccessible tracks and a standout. A trademark spooky Kate Bush number, it kicks off with eerie dialogue giving way to a magnificent strings, enshrouding a delicate violin-solo. "Reaching Out" continues from "The Fog" mild and tender, until it blasts off with its positive and ebullient chorus, charging up a somber atmosphere.

Amidst all the bleakness of The Sensual World, Kate finds herself singing about urban dehumanization (something that Radiohead have become the masters of). "Deeper Understanding" is a microcosm of our growing over-dependence on technology, which starts off with the words, "As the people here grow colder,/ I turn to my computer,/ and spend my evenings with it like a friend," with weird computer-sounds going-on behind, giving the perfect backdrop and a foreshadow to our future, i.e. now. Of course, not all is quiet and subtle in The Sensual World. Together with "Love And Anger," Kate goes all rock and wild with "Between A Man And A Woman", and "Rocket's Tail", which again features Gilmour at his best, accompanied by the vocals of The Trio Bulgarka gone haywire.
Kate's music has always been eerie, elusive, and indeed a sensual world.

"The Sensual World:"  I get pissed off (I'm kinda emotional) by the emphasis people put on the final word of James Joyce’s Ulysses, ignoring what preceded it, as if Molly Bloom's orgasmic "Yes" were the equivalent of Yoko Ono's. (John and Yoko's famous first meeting took place at a London gallery showing her artwork. He was impressed by a piece that required him to climb a ladder to the ceiling, where a card displaying a minuscule "yes" resided. In Lennon's defense, he had been doing a lot of acid that week.) That day was an ending, not a beginning. Honestly, isn't the orgasm it, and then immediately inconsequential? 

[I just wanted to post that. It has nothing to do with this article, really. Anyways…] Kate Bush was denied the use of Joyce's words (are they Joyce's, btw, or are they so far embedded in the literary psyche that they truly belong to Molly Bloom?) and was subsequently forced to rewrite and rename her tribute "The Sensual World." 22 years on that permission was granted and Kate was able to re-record the song, changing the name to "Flower of the Mountain" (which this writer finds inferior to the original, but whatever). Upon the release of The Director's Cut, Kate stated, "Originally when I wrote the song The Sensual World I had used text from the end of Ulysses but was disappointed not to receive permission.  But when I came to work on this current project I thought I would ask for permission again and this time they said yes… [how fitting] I am delighted that I have had the chance to fulfill my original concept."

Bush – one of the foremost musical artists of her generation – was struck by the power and potency of Bloom's soliloquy when she heard actor Siobhán McKenna read it. "Because I couldn't get permission for the lyrics I wrote to "The Sensual World," I had Molly Bloom stepping out of the book into the real world and having these impressions of sensuality." When I heard Siobhán McKenna read it I thought: 'My God! This is extraordinary, what a piece of writing!' It’s a very unusual train of thought." Kate's "Flower of the Mountain" was the first time Joyce's work was used in popular song.