I'm just going to put this out there. Kate Bush's fourth album, The Dreaming, is a work of genius.
What's that? You need more information? How can I make such a bold assertion without backing it up with evidence? Fine, have it your way.
Having retained Jon Kelly, who engineered her first two albums, as co-producer on Never For Ever, Kate was finally ready to take over sole production duties for her fourth album. Given free reign, Kate could experiment and push the boundaries of her sound like never before. And boy, did she.
On first listen I admit The Dreaming could seem impenetrable. Not one of its ten songs lets you off easy. There are no catchy Babooshka-like choruses, no simple piano-led ballads. Each song is intense, layered, lyrically complex, occasionally brutal. There are strange noises, hypnotic rhythms and treasures buried deep in the mix. In the album notes, Kate writes: "This album was made to be played loud." More than that, it was made to be listened to, not just heard.
To fully appreciate the magic of The Dreaming, you need to sit in a darkened room, turn up the volume (no headphones, these sounds need to bounce off walls), turn off your many digital distractions and wallow. Be transported across time and place - Vietnam, Australia, Ireland - let your pulse be driven to a different metre. Absorb the words, unpick their poetry. Get caught up in the drama - a failed bank robbery, a home invasion or Houdini's desperate escape act. Submit to this temple of weirdness and be rewarded with an emotional euphoria more intense than I can try to describe in words.
If you've never heard the album, here's the title track performed by Kate on German TV, complete with giant lizards. The lizards aren't important, they're just cool.
So the critics at the time didn't get it. So it sold less than her other albums. So the emotional and financial toll caused Kate to retreat and regroup. Let's be clear, The Dreaming is the foundation on which all of Kate's future successes were built. It is her coming of age, fulfilling her potential and changing forever the boundaries of what was possible in music.
This album changed my life. I knew after hearing it that I would be judging every other record I heard against it. I'm still waiting for something to beat it. I'm content if nothing ever does.
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