My Favorite Album: The Divine Comedy on Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Favorite Album: The Divine Comedy on Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love”

"Every track is just like a world in itself and doesn't seem to bear any relation to normal musicianship."

Feb 10, 2020 Photography by Ben Meadows Issue #66 - My Favorite Album - Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney
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Once Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy begins to describe why he cites Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love as his favorite album, it’s clear how much of a personal impact those songs have had.

Hannon considered the subject from his home in Ireland, shortly after the release of The Divine Comedy’s new album, Office Politics. “It does change, depending on the interview,” he admits. “Because, how can you have a favorite album?”

After being taken with Bush as a seven-year-old when he saw her 1978 performance of “Wuthering Heights” on Top of the Pops, Hannon later heard “moments of genius” in her early albums. Hounds of Love, however, was something else entirely for him.

“Every track is just like a world in itself and doesn’t seem to bear any relation to normal musicianship,” Hannon explains. “From a personal standpoint, I didn’t know it at the time but it had a massive impact on how I wrote later on because it just proved that you were allowed to do anything musically, and also lyrically in many ways.

“The first thing I heard from it was ‘Running Up That Hill.’ In a way, even though that’s the first song on the album, and it was a single, it’s not quite in the same soundscape as the rest of the record, which is odd, but it’s still a magnificent track.”

While he sees the album as a product of its time, Hannon feels that it endures as a singular creation well beyond any standing as a period piece. “I think one of the things that Kate Bush and the people around her did so well was to use the early sampler technology, the Fairlight, really beautifully and artistically, when it was used so badly on so many other records. That kind of synth pad underneath ‘Running Up That Hill’ is a prime example of that.

“I listened to it again for this [interview]. I try not to listen to it too often, to be honest, because I don’t want it ever to kind of pale. But I just find it so alarmingly fresh, and so inventive.

“The first side, for me, is all about the real cello/string kind of thing. And even though a lot of it is synthetic strings, they’ve interwoven real strings into it so cleverly that it has this kind of brilliant power. And it sounds like it’s from this 1940s/1950s film soundtrack of something that never was, and yet it’s pure pop music.

“But then the second side goes completely mental, you know?” Hannon notes, laughing. “It’s this crazy concept, ‘The Ninth Wave.’ God, I can’t remember which poet it is that she stole it off. Anyway, she goes into this long, witch-based psychodrama, and I love it all. The second side is a bit harder to handle, but as long as you sort of give over yourself completely to it, it’s fine.”

(Neil Hannon formed The Divine Comedy in 1989 and has been its sole permanent member. The orchestral pop band came to prominence in the mid-1990s

Bripop era, thanks in part to Hannon’s highly literate and witty lyrics, as evidenced on their 1996 album Casanova, which was certified Gold in the UK. He has also released two cricket-themed albums with Thomas Walsh as The Duckworth Lewis Method, as well as writing music for one musical and two operas.)

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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