Hounds of Love is the fifth studio album by British musician Kate Bush.
Disappointed by the commercial and critical failure (although the latter of those would reverse course later) of Bush's fourth album The Dreaming, her record label urged her to go for a more commercial sound with her next release as well as taking less time to make it. Ignoring both of these commands, Bush built a studio in the backyard of her house and recorded demos there throughout 1983 and 1984. Taking over a year in a half to perfect, Hounds of Love was finally released to widespread acclaim and commercial success on September 16, 1985.
The record is unique in the way it is presented. Side one (or tracks one through five on CD) is labeled "Hounds of Love" and contains unrelated songs about a variety of subjects such as understanding in relationships ("Running Up That Hill"), cloud gazing as a child ("The Big Sky"), and even a biographical tale on the life of Austrian philosopher Wilhelm Reich ("Cloudbusting").
Side two (tracks six through twelve), labeled "The Ninth Wave" is a hazy, nightmarish tale of a woman lost at sea after a shipwreck ("And Dream of Sheep"). She is visited by the ghosts of her past ("Waking the Witch"), present ("Watching You Without Me"), and future selves ("Jig of Life"), almost freezes to death ("Under Ice"), and eventually gets rescued ("Hello Earth"/"The Morning Fog").
It was the album that broke Bush from underground cult favorite to commercial smash in the United States, giving her her only top 40 hit there ("Running Up That Hill" peaked at #30). It also brought her back into the mainstream in her native UK, all four singles reaching the top 40. The track "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)" has been called "the greatest pop song ever created" by Jack Graham.
Retroactive recognition has named it as one of the best albums of the 1980s and among the best albums of all time.
TracklistSide One: Hounds of Love
- "Running Up That Hill ("A Deal with God)" (5:03)
- "Hounds of Love" (3:02)
- "The Big Sky" (4:41)
- "Mother Stands for Comfort" (3:07)
- "Cloudbusting" (5:10)
Side Two: The Ninth Wave
- "And Dream of Sheep" (2:45)
- "Under Ice" (2:21)
- "Waking the Witch" (4:18)
- "Watching You Without Me" (4:06)
- "Jig of Life" (4:04)
- "Hello Earth" (6:13)
- "The Morning Fog" (2:34)
Bonus Tracks on 1997 EMI reissue
- "The Big Sky" (Meteorological Mix)" (7:44)
- "Running Up That Hill" (12" Mix)" (5:45)
- "Be Kind to My Mistakes" (3:00)
- "Under the Ivy" (2:08)
- "Burning Bridge" (4:38)
- "My Lagan Love" (2:30)
"Be running up that road, be running up those tropes"
- Ambiguous Ending: Does the heroine at the end of The Ninth Wave survive her ordeal and get rescued? Kate has gone on record as strongly hinting that she does, but whether she's been rescued or is still awaiting rescue is unclear.
- Artistic License History: The video for "Cloudbusting", which dramatizes the arrest of psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich by the feds for practicing quackery. (The title refers to the cloudbuster, a machine Reich invented to harness an invisible energy he called orgone and control the weather, which was just one of his many kooky ideas.) In the video, as the government agents drive off with Reich in the back of their car, his son activates the cloudbuster and causes a rainstorm, and Reich is overjoyed to see the machine works. In real life, of course, the thing never worked, and Reich was just delusional (ironically, considering his profession, he may have had schizophrenia).
- Call-Back: Several over the course of the "Ninth Wave"; for example, the quiet "little light" in the beginning "Waking the Witch" is a call back to "And Dream of Sheep". It goes both ways though.
- The Coconut Effect: The train whistle at the end of "Cloudbusting", according to Kate herself, had to be created on a synthesizer because all the samples of real trains she found sounded wrong.We got so many tapes of steam trains, and they don't sound anything like what you'd expect steam trains to sound like. They sounded so pathetic. So we had to build up all this steam sound and big wheels and brakes, you know, coming to a halt and everything. We had to totally exaggerate what the real thing sounded like, so that people would realize what we meant.
- Concept Album: The second side of the album, The Ninth Wave is a concept piece about a woman spending a night in cold water.
- Concept Video:
- "Running Up That Hill" is largely an elaborate dance piece done as a Take That! at those critics who slammed the "Wuthering Heights" video.
- "Hounds of Love" is a pastiche of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.
- "Cloudbusting" - this one is based on the life of Wilhelm Reich. The reclusive scientist pursued by naughty government types is played by Donald Sutherland, Kate Bush plays his eight-year old son (in a hilariously unconvincing child costume) and the design of the very cool rain machine (Cloudbuster) was inspired by H. R. Giger.
- Dance Party Ending: The music video for "The Big Sky".
- Distinct Single Album: The first side is titled Hounds of Love, while the second side, The Ninth Wave, is a mini concept album.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The heroine of The Ninth Wave on Hounds of Love is alone in the sea and is tempted to let herself go under, but her past, present and future come together to urge her not to give in.
- Epic Rocking: "Hello Earth" is the only song on the album that exceeds six minutes.
- Ethereal Choir: The male choir from "Hello Earth". It's the chorus from the traditional Georgian (as in the country, not the state) folk song "Tsintskaro".
- Foreshadowing: Like mentioned above, this is very present in the "Ninth Wave", one example being the short appearance of the distorted spoken word voice at the beginning of "Waking the Witch" before it's getting more prominently featured on "Watching You Without Me". Another example is the quiet "over here", also in the beginning of "Waking the Witch", which re-appears later in "Jig of Life" and leads into a particularly striking part of that song.
- Iconic Outfit: The grey hakamas from the "Running Up That Hill" video (they look purple because of the lighting).
- Intercourse with You:
- "Running up That Hill" involves the two lovers in question switching bodies and then finding out what sex is like for the other. Or, less magically, it may simply be an elliptical and metaphorical depiction of woman-on-man anal sex.
- Kangaroo Court - The voices in "Waking the Witch" who chant "Guilty!" in unison give this impression.
- My Beloved Smother: "Mother Stands for Comfort" is sung from the perspective of a girl who's ambivalent towards her overprotective mother.
- My Future Self and Me - "Jig of Life" has the protagonist encounter her future self, who begs her to "let [her] live" by not dying.
- Near-Death Experience - "The Ninth Wave" is about a woman's frightening night alone while lost at sea. Unable to sleep ("And Dream of Sheep") because she's freezing to death ("Under Ice"), she briefly becomes psychotic and starts hallucinating about demonic voices ("Waking the Witch"). She thinks about her lover while possibly having an out-of-body experience ("Watching You Without Me"). She contemplates dying until a vision of her future self tells her to pull herself together and live through it for the sake of her (possibly unborn) children ("Jig of Life"). She calms down and decides she wants to live ("Hello Earth") and then the sun comes up and she gets rescued ("The Morning Fog").
- Ominous Latin Chanting - "Waking the Witch" has a chorus of female voices in the background praising God. And it is creepy.
- Scare Chord: Appears in "Waking the Witch".
- Soprano and Gravel Used in "Waking The Witch". In this case she provided both voices: one track is her natural voice, the other is a drastically slowed down demonic growl.
- Spoken Word in Music:
"Can't you see where memories are kept bright?
- "Hounds of Love" opens with a sound clip from the film Night of the Demon: "It's in the trees... It's coming!" (Due to a longstanding fan/urban legend that she wrote an episode under a pseudonym, this is often mistakenly said to have come from an episode of Doctor Who.)
- The 12" version of "The Big Sky" has a section of various voices discussing the shapes of clouds.
- Then there's the speech made by Kate's brother John at the end of "Jig of Life":
Tripping on the water like a laughing girl.
Time in her eyes is spawning past life,
One with the ocean and the woman unfurled,
Holding all the love that waits for you here.
Catch us now for I am your future.
A kiss on the wind and we'll make the land.
Come over here to where When lingers,
Waiting in this empty world,
Waiting for Then, when the lifespray cools.
For Now does ride in on the curl of the wave,
And you will dance with me in the sunlit pools.
We are of the going water and the gone.
We are of water in the holy land of water
And all that's to come runs in
With the thrust on the strand."
- Surreal Music Video:
- "Running Up That Hill" is mostly a interpretive dance routine, but has an element of surrealism to it, like when Kate and her partner get separated from each other in a sea of people wearing masks of their faces.
- The video for "The Big Sky" involves the following: Kate outside on top of a building looking through binoculars; falconry; Kate in a raincoat/dressed as a firefighter/as a pirate; Kate wearing a silver jumpsuit and goggles and dancing onstage while men in military uniforms play guitar; an astronaut; Superman; a bunch of people holding national flags, and a Dance Party Ending.