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Music

Revisiting Placebo’s cover of Kate Bush’s classic ‘Running Up That Hill’

@TomTaylorFO

When it comes to seminal songs, it would seem that a lot of truly great tracks have two lives and Kate Bush’s anthemic ‘Running Up That Hill’ is experiencing a wildly influential second wind thanks to its inclusion on the series Stranger Things. This is, in part, a measure of how brilliantly the song captured the sound of the era. 

And speaking of sounds that defined an era, Placebo were certainly a band who reverberated with the hum of the late 1990s. They also carried that tone over to their 2003 Covers album where they coloured classic tracks by their biggest influences with a coat of straightened fringe emo-ism. 

Alongside Kate Bush’s epic spiritual track, they tackled other influences likes The Smiths, Pixies, Robert Palmer and T. Rex, among others. However, the most famous from their record was undoubtedly the moody spin they applied to the gloss of Bush. 

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Brian Moloko lends his unique falsetto to the piece with a sort of oddly withdrawn croon. The booming melody is stripped-back with a classical piano tone taking the fore to provide a sinister feel to the song. All the while, the suppressed drumming slows the song down and offers a slosh of atmosphere to the creepy reimagining.

It’s almost like Brian Eno was producing a Nirvana album in retrospect with songwriting by his old pal David Bowie. Far from Bush’s sunny vibes, the song lingers in the basement rather than the clouds. Nevertheless, her energy remains strong enough to cut through with a slither of light beneath the doorsill. 

Now that Bush’s epic track has had a revival, this Placebo cover almost seems like an alternate time capsule. Speaking about the 1985 song’s second wind, Bush commented: “You might’ve heard that the first part of the fantastic, gripping new series of Stranger Things has recently been released on Netflix features the song ‘Running Up That Hill’ which is being given a whole new lease of life by the young fans who love the show – I love it too!”

Continuing: “Because of this, ‘Running Up That Hill’ is charting around the world and has entered the UK chart at number eight. It’s all really exciting! Thanks very much to everyone who has supported the song. I wait with bated breath for the rest of the series in July.” It also seems like a blessing that Placebo also might get a share of the spotlight thanks to Stranger Things’ triumphant song choice.  

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