What other recent album—or indeed any album—features songs about Elvis Presely, Joan of Arc, an ode to the number pi in which a shockingly large number of pi's actual digits are sung? All this plus a duet with a bird are found on Aerial.
Twelve years of public inactivity elapsed before Aerial came out in November. 1993's The Red Shoes was widely described as Bush's weakest album to date, and afterwards the mounting years with no new material forthcoming led many fans to abandon hope of ever hearing another Kate album. However, she was not finished and was occupied with other pursuits, including having a son, Bertie, in 1998.
The double CD is divided into two halves. The first disc is subtitled "A Sea of Honey" and is slightly more pop oriented but loosely organized. The second half is called "A Sky of Honey," and is a thematic suite of pieces which Kate calls "the semi-classical style which I like-–space and acoustic music."
The album begins with "King of the Mountain," a rumination on the emptiness of fame and fortune using Elvis Presely as its central metaphor. "Why does a multi millionaire fill up his home with priceless junk?" she asks, and with her imagery compares Elvis to the rich, powerful, and emotionally destitute Charles Foster Kane from the movie Citizen Kane.
In the song titled "Pi," Kate incorporates into the lyrics the actual number pi to 116 decimal places, which is not only a math geek's dream (count your humble reviewer into that group), but damned if she doesn't make pi sound sultry and sexy. The only problem is that she only gets it correct to 53 decimal places, but even so, it's still pretty impressive for a pop song.
"How to Be Invisible" is another song which might seem on paper like odd material, featuring a chorus comprised entirely of a witch-style spell ingredients: "Stem of wallflower, hair of doormat..." The enigmatic lyrics are strung together over a simmering funky groove, however, and the whole thing works quite well.
Musicians assisting Bush on the album include keyboardist Gary Brooker of Procol Harum fame (who was also on Kate's last album) and orchestral arranger Michael Kamen, another previous Bush collaborator who passed away mere weeks after completing work for Aerial.
Aerial is not Bush's best album--some of the songs, especially on the second half, don't work as well as others--but it is a very strong entry into her catalogue. Twenty-seven years after her debut album, Kate Bush still has the ability to delight, to amaze, and to inspire.