Friday, June 08, 2007


When she was interviewed in 2005 about her album Aerial, Kate Bush said of the oft-derided "Mrs Bartolozzi," with its fixations on cleaning and laundry and its celebration of the washing-machine, "Actually, I think it's the most serious song."

The narrator, Mrs Bartolozzi, now an old woman, recalls with fresh panic how one Wednesday a group of men came into her house in their muddy clothes, and how she had to spend hours and hours cleaning and mopping. There is a conspicuous fear in her recollection ; the soiling of her upholstery reveals itself as a symbol for something else :

"I watched them going round and round / My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers / Oh the waves are going out / My skirt floating up around my waist."

The house as a unified body, vulnerable to intrusion, features in "Get out of my House," the brutal, blasted last song from Bush's The Dreaming album. It was apparently inspired by Stephen King's novel The Shining, about a hotel with a ghostly life-force which possesses its inhabitants. The idea of a building being sentient and conscious had been explored before, but Kate Bush turns the theme back on itself. Her song is about consciousness (and especially sexual consciousness) itself.

Like "Mrs Bartolozzi," it is not good enough to say that "Get out of my House" is about rape. The former appears to be about a traumatic intrusion of some kind ; the latter is so wretchedly aggrieved, one suspects that this intrusion is of a sexual or violent nature. But what makes "Get out of my House" so sinuous, its meaning so perplexing, is the sheer array of voices we hear in it. I hear at least six :

The first bookends the song, enveloping it malevolently. It is a licentious, primal and male hee-haw, which Kate herself outbrays to terrifying effect at the end of the song.

The second voice, the one which sings the verses and chorus (minus the bits in between), is ostensible the narrative ego, with all its screams, slips and tics ("This house is full of m-m-madness, this house is full of, full of, full of fight").

The third is a primeval scream which completes each of the ego's utterances ("slamming", "lock it").

The fourth is an androgynous French concierge who warns the intruder, "My home, my joy, I'm barred and bolted and I won't letcha in...". The voice is teasing, yet aggressive ; protective, yet prohibitive. It acts as the gatekeeper, but it is no surer about the acceptability of the intrusion (whatever form that intrusion might take) that "Kate" herself.

And that "letcha" feels significant too. If the concierge had uttered it, it might sound flirtatious, but this is where a fifth voice enters, a heavily treated voice, flat and cold, yet magnetic and ravishing as well. It anaesthetises you, clasps you to itself, simultaneously reassuring you and giving you the fear.

The sixth voice is the most difficult to place. It is a male voice (actually that of Kate's brother Paddy). It could be the man in the first verse ("I watched the world pull you away" ... "I turn into the wind"). Or it could be the sadistic trespasser, its demand to "let me in" addressed not to the "I" from whom we have heard during the rest of the song, but to Woman as a category. He exists beyond the realm of the Law and exists only in, and as part of, Nature. The combination of his mellifluous voice and his promise of "a cold kiss" and "Devil Dreams" leaves one suspended, circumspectly staring into the ecstacy of the Real.

One can (for I have) produce analyses about what or who each of these voices represent – psychoanalytically, the voices of the id, superego and ego might be heard ; or those of the Mother and the Father – but in fact the voices overlap with such ambiguity, such nightmarish horror, that it is better to let the effect of the whole wash over you. It fits into that category of pop music where you wonder how on earth such a thing could have been written. Kate Bush has only made four albums since, two of which (Hounds of Love and Aerial) are played and recorded with something like a painter's palette. "Get out of my House" is in searing monochrome, perhaps the most desolate, disgusted track she has recorded, and as desperate as any punk song.

[Very many thanks to Alex btw, for helping me write this, and thereby end my 3-week hiatus]


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