2011 was a good year to be a Kate Bush fan, all told. She’s released more new music in the past 12 months than she previously had in the past seventeen years combined. But while her new studio album proper 50 Words for Snow was justifiable acclaimed as another spectacular artistic achievement in a career that has been defined by mining unusual concepts for musical gold, her first release was a rather more divisive affair.
Directors Cut saw Kate revisiting her selections from her relatively undervalued post Hounds of Love studio albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. Her liberal use of autotune on the lead single Deeper Understanding caused some fans to (as ever) question whether she’d finally lost the plot a bit. As with everything Kate does, a little bit of time was all that was really needed to adjust to her vision. However, for me the highlight of the album was a track that was almost certainly the genesis of the whole record.
Flower of the Mountain saw Kate re-visiting the title track from The Sensual World with the lyrics she originally intended but was refused clearance for in 1989 – an adaptation from the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses. As breathtaking as I find much of 50 Words for Snow to be, it’s this that is by some distance my favourite Kate Bush track of 2011. While the original had a sense of erotic urgency; with Bush alternately trilling and purring as if she was on the very edge of romantic ecstasy, this new take is characterised by a more languid, woozy sexuality. As befits the new lyrics, it’s a warm, dreamy remembrance of past love, rather than an attempt to capture a moment in time. In that sense it’s not just a great re-imagining, it’s a perfect sequel to the original. It would have made much more sense, both conceptually and commercially as the lead single from this project. But then Kate wouldn’t be Kate if she took the easy route.