Aug 192022

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Hounds of Love

In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack a climactic scene in the premiere episode of season four of the Netflix series Stranger Things. What happened next is already the stuff of pop music legend and a tale that will be remembered and recounted for years to come. As the 37-year-old pop song by the reclusive legend played, millions of kids and teens who had never known of Kate Bush’s existence completely lost their minds. Then came the real mayhem.

The next week saw “RUTH” (let’s just call it) ascend to the top of pop charts all over the world, going to number #1 in eight countries (England! New Zealand! Switzerland! Lithuania! More!). Okay, it only got to #4 in the U.S., but still, that’s Top 5 (upon the song’s original release in 1985 it only got as high as #30)! The song garnered millions of plays across all the streaming services (Apple! Spotify! YouTube!), inspired masses of TikTok videos, and most importantly introduced a whole new generation to the incomparable genius of Catherine “Kate” Bush.

But while the pop-chart-exploding Stranger Things-inspired introduction was a singular event unto itself, the experience of just plain hearing Kate Bush for the first time has never really changed. As existing Kate fans can confirm, the excitable reaction of the new listeners was perfectly normal. When Kate Bush enters your pop listening life for the first time, the natural human tendency has always been to go a little “oh my God” crazy.

But perhaps the most mind-blowing thing about all of this is that “RUTH” is not even the best song on the album it actually hails from. That’s how great Hounds Of Love is.

A foundational fixture on every “Best Albums of All-Time” list from now until forever, Hounds Of Love is Kate Bush’s finest hour. Despite its unending sonic drama, Hounds was recorded in the comically peaceful and idyllic environs of a converted barn at Kate’s childhood home. Yes, this madly ambitious album, consisting of four gorgeously unhinged anthems of love, an eerie demon ballad, and a 26-minute oceanic fever dream, actually came to be in storybook surroundings full of greenery, birdsong, and sweet dogs (that’d be Kate’s front cover co-stars and forever icons, Bonnie and Clyde). Epic and anthemic enough to scream along to in the car, but brimming with enough empathy and intimacy for intensive solo headphone engagement, Hounds Of Love is just plain magic.

While every track on Hounds of Love has been covered at this point, some have gotten more attention than others. Unsurprisingly, Stranger Things triggered a violent flood of “RUTH” covers, one that has shown no signs of stopping. (FYI: It will never stop. This is our future, people, get used to it.) After that behemoth, the next most popular tunes in the Hounds cover hit parade are “Cloudbusting” and the album’s title track.

Now when it comes to those three songs, we are spoiled for choice. So much so, that it is impossible to declare one particular cover version of any of them to be significantly better than the rest. In light of that, I’m going to share a few extra ‘n’ amazing covers of those tracks.

Pickings are a bit slimmer for the rest of the songs, but that is in no way a reflection on the standard of the covers of Hounds‘ more “obscure” creatures. They are still plenty fun, weird and wondrous!

In a 1985 interview with the French TV show Rockline, Kate stated that Hounds was “almost like two separate albums for me.” The first side consists of “five separate songs linked only by the theme of love, they’re about relationships” but added that “they’re all very different subject matters from each other.” Side Two, she said, ” is a conceptual piece, which is seven songs all linked together. It’s very much something that was designed and written to work as one piece of music.”

With that in mind, we shall acknowledge Hounds as two separate and distinct entities. Hey, we do what Kate says around here.

One last thing: There are some genuine tearjerkers amongst the covers that follow, so I recommend keeping your crying towel close by. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I still dream of Orgonon…

Side One: “Hounds of Love”

“Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” is quickly becoming the new “Hallelujah” i.e. THE go-to cover choice of every talent show contestant, karaoke night soloist, and eager TikTokker that wants to be topical, grab some cheap applause, and maybe go viral. The thing is, we weren’t necessarily in need of new “RUTH” covers. There was already an exceptional bunch available well before the Stranger Things storm hit (though there is one newborn deserving of love, as you’ll soon see).

Ellevator – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush cover)

Canadian trio Ellevator’s 2018 live take has a genuinely wicked little Fleetwood Mac vibe to it and enough space for both singer Nabi Sue Bersche and guitarist Tyler Bersche to run free, which they do in exceptionally swoonworthy fashion.

Placebo – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush cover)

Placebo’s 2003 cover is one of the best-known “RUTH” covers, and deservedly so. A slow-churning locomotive with a bit of horror in its bridge, the band reshapes the song into something sinister, tense, and oh so fabulously creepy.

Saer – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush cover)

As far as stripped-down “RUTHs” go, Saer’s gorgeous and plaintive take is pretty untouchable. It feels and sounds very much like a Sigur Rós-Jónsi track, and as such may cause delicate hearts to go all aflutter upon exposure.

Pub Choir – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush cover)

Time to meet the newest cover on our list.

I know what you’re thinking. Oh no, not another choir singing a pop song. The practice has become so commonplace over the past decade that its charm has undeniably worn off a little. I myself felt a little cynical the first time I cued up this video… until about a minute and a half into it. That was the point at which this corny thing officially penetrated my raisin heart and I started to feel very misty indeed. Damn you, Pub Choir.

The group’s mission statement on their YouTube page says all you really need to know: “What happens when 1600 strangers have a few drinks, then learn to sing Running Up That Hill in 3-part harmony? Turn up the volume and find out!”

This version of “RUTH” is basically a bunch of lathered-up people in Brisbane, Australia shout-singing at the top of their lungs… and it’s beautiful (and as much a visual experience as an aural one). Pub Choir founder Astrid Jorgensen describes what they do as “an event for really average singers. You can never get kicked out of Pub Choir for being terrible because it’s about us making something together.”

By the way, Kate absolutely loves this performance and deemed it to be “utterly, utterly wonderful!” So go ahead and cry: the queen approves.

P.S. Before we move on, I want to call attention to two “RUTH” covers I didn’t have room for that also deserve some love. Please go have a listen to First Aid Kit’s 2018 stunning live take here. Then, if you will, go bang your head to alt-popster Meg Myers’s thunderous, ass-kicking rendition here. Both are absolutely righteous.

The Futureheads – Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush cover)

“Hounds of Love” is a big, fat exuberant anthem about running from love for fear of being caught, trapped, and torn apart (Go, Kate). The best-known cover of “Hounds” is The Futureheads’ anxious, shouty take, which was not only a UK Top 10 hit but named “Best Single of 2005” in esteemed music mag NME’s annual list. It remains a bit of a polarizer, as in you either love it or hate it (the grating oh-oh-oh backing vocals remain a bit of a sticking point). Ready for hot take #1? The absolute best covers are the ones that eschew the bigness and bombast of The Futureheads version. The best “Hounds” are in fact, the weirdy wallflowers. The quiet ones. The nerds. Especially these next two…

The Divine Comedy- Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush cover)

Hounds Of Love is baroque, retro-pop maestro Neil (The Divine Comedy) Hannon’s favorite album of all time. His rapturous, jaunty and absurdly affectionate cover is, surprisingly, a bit of a tearjerker. This is not because it is slow and sad (it isn’t), but rather because it sounds like a song that has an overwhelming crush on another song and can’t hold it in any longer; it is positively bursting with love.

Beth Sorrentino– Hounds Of Love (Kate Bush cover)

Beth Sorrentino was the lead singer and pianist of the seriously underrated ’90s alt-indie band Suddenly, Tammy!. After the band broke up, she embarked on a solo career, and her fab 2011 album Hiding Out featured a breezy, low-key, and just plain damn lovely cover of “Hounds.” Bonus points for interpolating the fabled “yay-ee-yay-ee-yo” from another Hounds classic “Cloudbusting” into her own version.

SLUG– The Big Sky (Kate Bush cover)

“The Big Sky” hasn’t been covered as much as one might expect, i.e. hardly ever. Of all the existing versions, this 2015 version by SLUG aka Ian Black (formerly of the band Field Music) is maybe the most intriguing. It is humbly worshipful not only of Kate but of two iconic early ’80s songs: New Order’s “Thieves Like Us” and Donald Fagan’s “New Frontier” (with a dash of synth-pioneers Heaven 17 thrown in for good measure), which is kind of cool. Black’s description of his cover is disarmingly charming as well: “The approach was not to try to match the majestic original (for I would have lost…. badly) but to have some fun with it. It has Rundgren pianos, daft synthesizers, a Led Zeppelin breakdown, and myself struggling with the vocal delivery that only Kate would be able to pull off so brilliantly.”

Video Video – Mother Stands For Comfort (Kate Bush cover)

In the middle of Side One’s anthemic onslaught sits a tiny, insidious demon ballad called “Mother Stands For Comfort.” As incongruous as it may seem, this song about the unconditional love of a murderer’s mother serves as a place to stop, rest and catch your breath before the first side’s grand finale… kind of like having to spend the night in a haunted house until the storm outside clears and you can leave safely. It is both gently calming and utterly menacing. Australian synth-poppers Video Video expertly channel mid-’80s Depeche Mode on their cover which in light of the song’s subject matter, couldn’t be more on the nose or perfect.

Hounds Of Love Sidebar!

About “Cloudbusting”

Despite its somewhat obscure inspiration and enigmatic lyrical content, “Cloudbusting” is one of the most beloved songs in the whole Kate Bush catalog. Once that “I just know that something good is gonna happen” verse enters your life, it ain’t going anywhere; it will barnacle itself to your soul forever.

Inspired after reading Peter Reich’s 1973 memoir Book Of Dreams, Kate has expounded on the song’s backstory many times over the years. But even if you are already familiar with it, the description Kate offered in her 1985 interview with the Kate Bush Club Newsletter remains an enlightening look inside (I still find it pretty damn fascinating) :

It’s about a special relationship between a young son (Peter) and his father (psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich). His father is everything to him; he is the magic in his life, and he teaches him everything, teaching him to be open-minded and not to build up barriers. His father has built a machine that can make it rain, a “cloudbuster”; and the son and his father go out together cloudbusting. They point big pipes up into the sky, and they make it rain. The song is very much taking a comparison with a yo-yo that glowed in the dark and which was given to the boy by a best friend. It was really special to him; he loved it. But his father believed in things having positive and negative energy, and that fluorescent light was a very negative energy – as was the material they used to make glow-in-the-dark toys then – and his father told him he had to get rid of it, he wasn’t allowed to keep it. But the boy, rather than throwing it away, buried it in the garden so that he would placate his father but could also go and dig it up occasionally and play with it. It’s a parallel in some ways between how much he loved the yo-yo – how special it was – and yet how dangerous it was considered to be. He loved his father (who was perhaps considered dangerous by some people), and he loved how he could bury his yo-yo and retrieve it whenever he wanted to play with it. But there’s nothing he can do about his father being taken away, he is completely helpless. But it’s very much more to do with how the son does begin to cope with the whole loneliness and pain of being without his father. It is the magic moments of a relationship through a child’s eyes, but told by a sad adult.

The Staves – Cloudbusting (Kate Bush cover)

This gorgeous version (understatement) of “Cloudbusting” by indie-folksters-otherworldly harmonizers The Staves (sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor) is a highlight of their 2022 Be Kind EP (recommended). After you’ve listened to that beauty, please join us downstairs for some “bonus-busting” from the band that may possibly render you speechless with its “good lord, is this real? ” perfection.

Martin Newnham – Cloudbusting (Kate Bush cover)

“Cloudbusting” is not necessarily a “fun” song, but Martin Newnham’s folk-flavored take sure is. In this cover, Newnham ‘n’ crew kick up the tempo, pick with virtuosic fire, and inject the song with some pure, unadulterated rustic magic.

Sergeant Thunderhoof – Cloudbusting (Kate Bush cover)

It is now time for some “muthaf*cking Cloudbusting”. When it came to recording their cover, Sergeant Thunderhoof, self-proclaimed purveyors of “psychedelic, groove rock from the dark realms of Somerset,” really freakin’ went for it. It’s easy to write this kind of thing off as a novelty, but it most assuredly is not. It is a beauteous piece of epically sludgy, emotional metal and runs nearly three minutes longer than the original (due to bonus riffage, obviously). Bonus points for its fabulously reverential video.

Katie Malco – Cloudbusting (Kate Bush cover)

There is nothing fancy about Katie Malco’s “Cloudbusting” cover from 2021. It’s simple and faithful. It features some particularly lovely banjo-playing and vocalizing. It’s quiet and honestly, pretty unassuming. Yet it’s absolutely magnetic. Oh hell, let’s just call it beautiful (as in really beautiful) and leave it at that. It’s more than enough.

Side Two: “The Ninth Wave”

Side Two of Hounds Of Love is home to the fabled 7-song suite known as “The Ninth Wave.” To oversimplify (forgive me), it tells the story of someone who has fallen off a ship, is stranded in the water for a night, and has to stay awake to keep from drowning. In a 1985 Melody Maker interview, Kate said its overall theme was “about waking up from things and being reborn. Going through something and coming out the other side very different.”

You don’t necessarily need to know any of this to enjoy or get into “The Ninth Wave.” There are innumerable humans who love The Who’s Tommy and Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, have listened to them a kajillion times, and still have no idea what they are about (that’d be most of us). If you were to ask ten fans to explain the story being told on each of ’em, you’d likely get ten different answers, including at least one “I have no idea, but I love it.” The same goes for “The Ninth Wave.” It doesn’t matter how many times Kate has told us that “And Dream Of Sheep,” the ballad that opens “The Ninth Wave” is describing a terrifying nightmare. A huge part of the population that loves it (me included) can only hear it as a comforting, life-affirming lullaby.

James Gilmour – And Dream Of Sheep (Kate Bush cover)

The first time I listened to James Gilmour’s version of “ADOS,” I wasn’t blown away. It just sounded like another overly faithful, run-of-the-mill acoustic cover of a pop song. It took a few listens before its quiet magic started to emerge, and I found myself looking forward to the moments when the little buzz in Gilmour’s voice appeared (it is the song’s secret weapon). And wouldn’t you know it, it’s become not only my most-listened-to “ADOS” cover, but one of my fave Kate covers, period. This is one handsome sheep.

Giovonni Riggens – Under Ice (Kate Bush cover)

There are tracks within “The Ninth Wave” that, while they sound brilliant as part of the suite, don’t quite stand up as singular songs. They are chapters in a story and work as a team toward the greater good. As those tracks tend to be weirder and more idiosyncratic in their construction, they just plain don’t get covered as much as the glamour queens on Side One.

“Under Ice” is one of those “chapters.” But Giovonni Riggens somehow makes the under three-minute tune sound like a windblown epic, not via the arrangement (which is faithful), but with his soaring vocal performance. If there are any ’90s R & B nerds out there, you might find his tone reminiscent of the late, great Ephraim Lewis (always a blessed thing). The cover as a whole is stunning… and that last falsetto is everything.

The Little Unsaid – Waking The Witch (Kate Bush cover)

“Waking The Witch” is more of a sound collage than a pop song and by far the most slippery track in the suite. May we now present to you The Little Unsaid, aka John Elliot, magically transforming the least accessible track on Hounds into a lustrous, hypnotic guitar-based mantra of Everest-size proportions. The creative vision required to reimagine “Waking The Witch” this way is truly impressive… and this cover is superfine.

Theo Bleckmann – Watching You Without Me (Kate Bush cover)

In 2011, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Theo Bleckmann released a Kate Bush tribute album called Hello Earth!. The track listing was pleasingly adventurous, for it featured not only cool old weirdos like “Suspended In Gaffa” and “Saxophone Song,” but also four tracks from “The Ninth Wave.” Bleckmann’s harpsichord-led cover of “Watching You Without Me” is a nice piece of quietly eccentric cabaret and one of Hounds of Love‘s standouts.

Malin Dahlström & Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra – Jig Of Life (Kate Bush cover)

“Jig Of Life” is not a delicate little flower. It is wild and dramatic and can only be its best self when approached in the over-the-top manner it deserves. This cover was performed as part of a 2018 tribute show organized by the Göteborgs Symfoniker (The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) and stars Malin Dahlström (of dancey-cool-synth-poppers Niki & the Dove) and Jennie Abrahamson on vocals. It is dressed in red (the most manic of all colors) and completely histrionic. It is also ridiculously fun to watch. Jig it.

Martina Karpmyr – Hello Earth (Kate Bush cover)

Kate’s self-proclaimed lullaby for the planet, “Hello Earth” is a bit of a sleeper, a secret classic hidden inside the Side Two suite. Though the song may have been, let’s just say, too “sonically sophisticated” to ever be released as a single, it is every bit as melodic as the hits that rule Side One. Martina Karpmyr’s cover is understated and lovely, exuding warmth from its every pore. She eschews the elaborate choral parts of the original, which halves its running time and shines a blessed light on the wondrous pop song living inside.

Ruth Bennett & Charo Nieto – The Morning Fog (Kate Bush cover)

“The Morning Fog” closes “The Ninth Wave” and Hounds Of Love with sweet grace and hope. In an interview on Radio 1’s Classic Album series in 1992, Kate explained that “The Morning Fog” was “meant to be the rescue of the whole situation, where now suddenly out of all this darkness and weight comes light…in my mind, this was the song where they were rescued, where they get pulled out of the water…And it was also meant to be one of those “thank you and goodnight” songs. You know, the little finale where everyone does a little dance and then the bow and then they leave the stage.”

Harpist Ruth Bennett and vocalist Charo Nieto’s sunny, rapturous reading of “The Morning Fog” is skeletal and set at a slower tempo than the original. The combination of Bennett’s virtuosic playing and Nieto’s warm embrace of a voice is just exquisite (and extra points for the way Nieto goes to town on those “yay-ee-yay-ee-yo’s”). There couldn’t have been a more perfect cover to end this piece with (boy, did we get lucky).

Bonus Cut!: If you want to read more about Kate’s peerless creations and lusty snowmen, or learn why box sets are pure evil, then please, by all means, come check out “HELLO EARTH: A Discographic Journey Into Kate Bush” at my weird musical blog Picking Up Rocks. Seeing you there would be wow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow-unbelievable! Find it here.

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