Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow is about 45 words too long

Robert Starr

Music is a fairly subjective art form. A piece that somebody may love will leave someone else cold. It doesn’t transcend generations very well, with parents and children forever fighting over which radio station to put on in the car, nor does it extend across regions — one can give a good guess as to how old someone is and where they’re from just by skimming through their iPod.

Even with a given person, a song may be good at some times and not others. Eighties icon Kate Bush’s latest release 50 Words for Snow may make good background music for studying, or falling asleep to, but as music to actively listen to, it fails. Tracks drone on and on, sometimes for more than 10 minutes at a time, repeating the same piano riff ad nauseum, with abstract lyrics that may or may not actually mean anything. The title track is especially excessive — it actually lists all the Inuit words for snow. By the time we get to 10, Bush has made whatever point she could possibly need to and the song’s not even close to halfway over.

The album is well made, however, and is both atmospheric and moody. Bush still has a good voice for this kind of thing, sounding like a deeper version of Tori Amos, an artist who draws inspiration from Bush.

As a result, the album is pretty, but also incredibly dull and unlikely to have much appeal outside of those who appreciate the avant-garde. It is the work of a true artist who got lost in a cloud of her own expression and forgot that other people need to listen to it. Still, Bush has been recording for over 30 years, and unlike other artists, she hasn’t lost the joy that makes her interesting.

50 Words for Snow is not a terribly good album, but it suggests that Bush is still capable of recording a great one. With a slightly increased tempo and better-paced songs, this would have been an easy recommendation. As it stands, it’s a pretentious disappointment.

Printed on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 as: Monotony beleaguers songstress