Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow [Fish Music/EMI]
It’s Kate Bush’s cheery Christmas album! Not really. 50 Words For Snow is the 53-year-old (really!) eccentric singer-songwriter’s tenth album in her 32-year career and comes hot (cold?) on the heels of this year’s Director’s Cut set that restyled some of her most well-known songs.
Its seven tracks seem a meagre offering at first glance but the shortest track (Among Angels) clocks in at just under the 7-minute mark. Longest effort, Misty, is more than 13 minutes long. Elton John and — surprisingly — Stephen Fry pop up on Snowed In At Wheeler Street and 50 Words For Snow respectively. It’s unfortunate that they’re the weakest tracks.
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There’s something a little uncomfortable about Snowed In At Wheeler Street‘s use of the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks as the subject for a love song duet (still too soon?). And 50 Words For Snow is literally 50 words for snow. Bush intones numbers while Fry lists the alternate words for snow in what sounds like an uninteresting eight-and-a-half-minute QI TV show answer. It’s not helped by Bush’s “Come on now, just 22 to go” mid-song declaration.
Snow is a recurring motif. Opener Snowflake, Snowed In At Wheeler Street and the titular 50 Words For Snow make the connection explicit but the white stuff is mentioned everywhere.
Festive flourishes almost break through. Sleigh bells even briefly chime quietly in the background on lead single Wild Man — also known as the Indian Yeti — is investigated by Dipu Marak “in the remote Garo Hills”.
The sparse piano-led songs are all a little too sedate. It sounds like Bush is happy to slip quietly away with nothing on 50 Words For Snow rivalling earlier, more upbeat, strange pop triumphs like Babooshka or Running Up That Hill.
Although Kate Bush fans of a certain vintage will delight at Misty‘s clinical metaphor about a cold love affair with a snowman (really…) with its “I can feel him melting in my hand” and “the sheets are soaking” observations.