Artist – Album: PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
Released: 23rd October 2000
Sounds Like: Polly makes a cracker
Polly Jean Harvey seems to enjoy being contrary. She first received attention as the rebellious leader of PJ Harvey, at a time when frontwomen were staggeringly rare. She was one of the most popular female artists of the mid-nineites in the UK, despite releasing music that was scarily uncompromising and unpoppy. She was initially uncomfortable with the media attention, but still had a penchant for theatricality and saucy photoshoots. There have been plenty of image and sound changes during her long career, as she wilfully challenged assumptions and stereotypes. Even the song title of the first track here deals with opposites – the band enter proceedings with a song named ‘Big Exit’.
That being said, ‘Big Exit’s sound does not conflict with established views - it’s as noisy and punk-bluesy as ever. Thereafter, though, things get interesting as ‘Good Fortune’, ‘You Said Something’ and ‘This is Love’ rank amongst the most accessible and lovely songs in her oeuvre. She can still pack a punch with the likes of ‘The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore’ and ‘Kamikaze’, but these are interspersed with mellow ballads such as ‘Beautiful Feeling’ and ‘We Float’, inspired by Harvey’s affection for NYC and her new love. Two other notable tracks are ‘Horses in My Dreams’ which strikes me as a direct reference to biggest influence Patti Smith, and ‘The Mess We’re In’, where Thom Yorke takes guest vocals in a gorgeous, interweaving piece of alternative rock.
Perhaps Harvey’s most contrary move of all was the making of Stories from the City. Famously primal, punky, abrasive, it’s almost an act of defiance that she should release an album whereby she’s actually besotted with a guy, a city and just about everything; even more so that it should be such a joy to listen to. The awkward little so-and-so.
Albumaday... rating: 8/10
1. Big Exit – 3:51
2. Good Fortune – 3:20
3. A Place Called Home – 3:43
4. One Line – 3:14
5. Beautiful Feeling – 4:00
6. The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore – 4:01
7. The Mess We’re In – 3:57
8. You Said Something – 3:19
9. Kamikaze – 2:24
10. This Is Love – 3:48
11. Horses in My Dreams – 5:38
12. We Float – 6:07
Listen to ‘The Mess We’re In’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH2I9fJ0ALk
Also released on 23rd October:
2007: Tullycraft – Every Scene Needs a Center