PJ HARVEY CONSIDERED (2016): All killer and no Polly filler

 |   |  2 min read

PJ HARVEY CONSIDERED (2016): All killer and no Polly filler

When she first emerged under her own name in the early Nineties with the album Dry we called her “PJ Harvey”, because “Polly” seemed rather too familiar for someone so tightly wound and sharply poetic.

And because Dry's follow-up Rid of Me was called “the best miserable album of all time” by Q magazine.

She changed over time, but even in 2001 when I interviewed her before a Big Day Out it was with some trepidation. But she was funny, personable, quite charming and amused by the image she had. On stage she was a firebrand.

She's now nine studio albums and couple of collaborations into her career, so in advance of her sold-out concert in Wellington in January we thought we'd offer a buyers' guide to PJ . . . or Polly as she is now.

220px_Rid_of_MeRid of Me (1993)

Darker and more difficult than her demanding debut Dry of the previous year.

This collection catalogues some of the deeper recesses of a troubled mind (a relationship had ended) and is full of vengeance, rage, punk anger and dense blues.

Twisting melodies and Steve Albini's production only add to the allure.

220px-To_Bring_You_My_Love_1To Bring You My Love (1995)

This belated follow-up to Rid of Me was even more complex lyrically, owed debts to Captain Beefheart and Patti Smith, again turning the microscope on her emotions and another relationship which came apart.

But in its weave of dense poetry, compelling music and producer Flood's atmospheric settings it was picked as the year's best by many writers and magazines.

Essential in any collection.

220px_Stories_From_The_City__Stories_From_The_SeaStories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000)

By this time she was “Polly”, parading a confident sexuality, and from the chiming guitar jangle of the openers Big Exit and Good Fortune there was a more mainstream pop-rock ethic in play, and – although she still explored some nooks and crannies – you sensed she was emerging as a new person, more comfortable in her own skin.

It won her the Mercury Prize after two previous nominations.

220px_PJ_Harvey___Let_England_ShakeLet England Shake (2011)

Another Mercury Prize-winner and an album inspired by her readings about the folly of historic and current wars.

But she again wrapped her narratives and thoughts in engrossing music.

She subsequently released a series of short films of the songs using images by war photographer Seamus Murphy.


Check out this year's The Hope Six Demolition Projectthe result of her trip to Afghanistan, Kosovo and a beleaguered suburb of Washington DC with photographer Murphy.

And also the risky, sometimes uncomfortable but ultimately engaging A Woman A Man Walked By (2009), her second collaboration with producer/multi-instrumentalist John Parish.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Absolute articles index

YOKO ONO REISSUED (2017): Back on plastic, Ono bands

YOKO ONO REISSUED (2017): Back on plastic, Ono bands

In an off-the-record aside back in 94, the producer Bill Laswell – who recorded Yoko Ono's album Starpeace of '85 said to me she “sang in the key of flat”. He also... > Read more

MICHAEL BUBLE INTERVIEWED (2003): From Sinatra to Queen

MICHAEL BUBLE INTERVIEWED (2003): From Sinatra to Queen

The invitation for dinner-hour drinks and a show in an Auckland hotel ballroom by Michael Buble was clear: dress to impress. Some did, but for many a denim jacket or T-shirt apparently fitted... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Kuching, Sarawak: A clowder of cats, and then some

Kuching, Sarawak: A clowder of cats, and then some

I'd just stepped outside into the 36 degree heat and humidity when my phone rang. It was my wife back in New Zealand where the weather was wet and cold. We had a quick chat about various... > Read more

R.L. BURNSIDE CONSIDERED (2015): Blues from before fame

R.L. BURNSIDE CONSIDERED (2015): Blues from before fame

For many decades before his career was given a high-profile resurrection by the Fat Possum label in Nineties (and he toured with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), R.L. Burnside was... > Read more