PJ Harvey

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Wednesday 26 September 2001

PJ Harvey online

Everyone says I love you, but no-one says it with quite as much carnal glee as Polly Jean Harvey. In the scramble to find the most apposite title for Somerset's most difficult daughter, it's often forgotten that Harvey is Lust's finest ambassador. Now, with the Mercury Prize-winning 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea', we find her in the throes of a rebirth. It's an album rich in texture and brimming with fresh confidence; a sigh of lyrical - and musical - gratification after the breathless, confused, neo-industrial clamour of 'Is This Desire?'. It's also the closest the raven-haired songstress has come to sounding happy.

The likes of the dark 'Down By The Water' and the formally spindle-limbed 'Send His Love To Me' are remade and remodelled into primal roars of self-confidence. Opener 'One Line' reverberates with cavernous drums and fathomless longing, and 'Sky Lit Up' drags itself from the depths of the Mississippi mudflats to Patti Smith's bathroom floor. 'The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore' follows on a giant wave of unearthly avant-noise, with Harvey shrieking and whirling across the stage; it's 'The Wicker Man''s Willow via Liza Minnelli.

If her flirtation with the once-elusive mainstream has stirred any personal unease, it doesn't show. Indeed, Harvey's toothsome grin and hand-clapping, crowd-rousing chutzpah suggests the songwriter has found her spiritual home; that all previous roads - from the bare-faced angst-maiden of 'Dry' to the predatory, glassy-eyed vamp of 'To Bring You My Love' - were destined to lead here.

Tonight, the relationship between city and country, which has powered Harvey's muse since her 1991 debut tore open the decade, is as pronounced as ever. 'Big Exit' melts into 'Dry', limbs and lyrics entangled in New York City gloss and delta grit, while the Television-ish 'This Is Love' becomes a bedside companion piece to earthy, libidinous paean 'Man-Size' ("Lick my legs/I'm on fire").

This new, New York groove fits her like a fingerless lace glove. While most great female songwriters eventually find themselves canonised, only in PJ Harvey will saints and sinners alike find their guiding light.


 This Review by Sarah Dempster was Originally on the NME Review Page



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