PJ Harvey

Picture of PJ Harvey

Rid Of Me

PJ Harvey - Rid Of Me ©1993 Island
1. Rid Of Me
2. Missed
3. Rub ‘til It Bleeds
4. Hook
6. Man-Size Sextet
7. Highway 61 Revisited
8. 50 Ft Queenie
9. Yuri-G
10. Man-Size
11. Dry
12. Me-Jane
13. Snake
14. Ectstacy

Before Alanis Morrissette lurched onto the mainstream with her tuneless caterwauling, there existed Polly Jean Harvey, a woman whose early works exuded an angry, anguished, personal nature that predated Canada’s no-talent songstress by a good few years. This, her second official full-length, is an angry and ugly romp that seems to weave together punchy punk rock energy, a despairing, personal lyrical stance, occasional bluesy riffs, and Harvey’s astonishing, anguished voice that channels both Pattie Smith and Chrissie Hynes while still retaining an air of individuality.

It can be argued that the minimalistic, metallic approach to songwriting and arrangement was due to master producer Steve Albini’s involvement with the recording. Never one to keep things at a quiet, subdued level, Albini works his magic in capturing Harvey and her then-collaborators Robert Ellis and Steve Vaughn at their most primal, raw state. Yes, with buzzsaw distortion abundant (not to mention the occasional atonal flourishing of violin and cello), Rid of Me is certainly not pretty, but for those with an affinity towards the ugliness that seems to exist inside all of us, Rid of Me would certainly appeal (special mention must go to her skewed cover of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”). Fans of emotional, disturbing, honest musical creativity should not pass this up.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 07/2002

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To Bring You My Love

PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love ©1995 Island
1. To Bring You My Love
2. Meet Ze Monster
3. Working For The Man
4. C'Mon Billy
5. Teclo
6. Long Snake Moon
7. Down By The Water
8. I Think I'm A Mother
9. Send His Love To Me
10. The Dancer

To Bring You My Love signaled the beginning of PJ Harvey's move away from raw rock tunes towards something approaching melodic pop. There is still a lot of nasty guitar noise and open hostility, but a deeply musical sensibility begins to take center stage. The rhythmic groove dominates the first half of the album. "Working for the Man" provides the most prominent example, being little more than a hypnotic bass groove with Harvey's icily erotic voice quietly inviting the listener to despair. The second half of the album contains the best material, with a few noisy, nearly metallic songs, and some Spaghetti Western high-desert baladeering. Tremolo strumming on nylon and hazy electric organ lines go a long way in creating an open sky atmosphere. The album is replete with these lovely embellishments, sounding like sun-cracked dirt beneath a wide blue desert sky. Harvey's singing occupies the gray zone between aggressive sexuality and introspective depression, the songs both hungry and self-deprecating. As usual, her pained performance sounds a lot like a Madonna/Whore dichotomy on tape, with lyrics focused on hope, disgust, and prostitution, literal and figurative. Her voice is dry, parched, but also blistery and undefeated, tired but no less defiant. To Bring You My Love is not PJ Harvey's best album, but it is the first really interesting one.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2003

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Is This Desire?

PJ Harvey - Is This Desire? ©1998 Island
1. Angelene
2. The Sky Lit Up
3. The Wind
4. My Beautiful Leah
5. A Perfect Day Elise
6. Catherine
7. Electric Light
8. The Garden
9. Joy
10. The River
11. No Girl So Sweet
12. Is This Desire?

The fifth album of her career, PJ Harvey's Is This Desire? illustrates best her most striking qualities as a singer and composer. Lyrically the themes remain the same, but encompass far more diversity, still focused on the experiences of a complex woman but more reflective and subtle. By this point, much of the anger had been whittled away and the result is an opulent, perfectly formed pop record. The album's vibe is dense and immerses the listener in claustrophobia and suspense, intensely dark at times but no less beautiful for it. Many of the songs, particularly those occurring towards the center of the album, drip with humidity, conveying an image of the American south, with dense overgrowth and abandoned train cars, ghost stories and moldering corpses covered with black soil. Other songs are ethereal and seem to hover between the moon and the sea, beautifully haunting and resonating deeply. There are a wide array of influences at work, from blues to trip-hop, from industrial to metal, from punk to country. But no one sound stands alone, every element drawn tightly together into a single interwoven stitch of sound. Harvey's performance is as wide-ranged as the music, bluesy and caustic one moment and hymnal and melodious the next, filled with melancholy and regret. There are whispers of forgiveness, screams for solace, and a pervasive feeling of hope tempered with past anguish. The music is the setting and Harvey the actress sounding out at center stage. The whole album seems to cry, "Is this desire?"

Review by James Slone

Review date: 03/2003

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