Kate Bush romps through the snow

For Kate Bush fans, the biggest surprise about her new album 50 Words For Snow is its very existence. The pop perfectionist likes to take a decade or so to construct her albums, and it’s only been 6 months since Directors Cut, her collection of reworkings of old material.

It’s hardly a slapdash affair though. Long and meditative piano-led songs muse on the theme of snow, with the occasional startling invention you expect of Britain’s greatest female songwriter.

The first words on the album are sung by son Bertie, who carries the poignant Snowflake with a choirboy warble suggesting Aled Jones, with Mum as the Snowman. Its stately pace builds up an eerie atmosphere, full of innocent wonder.

Bush gets all salacious on the bizarrely beautiful Misty, a story of a seductive snowman who came in from the cold, only to end up as a melted pool in the sheets. It’s a ludicrous idea, but somehow she makes it work.

Fans are already divided about the guest appearances on the album. Elton John bellows woodenly on the mad ballad Snowed In At Wheeler Street, the tale of star-crossed lovers through history. Stephen Fry wields his erudite schoolmasterly enunciation on the title track, with Bush egging him on to come up with ever-more desperate synonyms for the white stuff.

It’s a work of engaging eccentricity. The Bush vocal style is less wild these days, slipping over the snow in an elegant glide rather than howling round the mountaintops, but there are enough ideas here to confirm her continued ability to surprise.

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