Rhythm & Views

PJ Harvey

Polly Jean Harvey channels American folk music through her British, guttural vocal chords; her voice, wavering and powerful, her guitar, messy and tight--it's exactly the emotional core of original American blues and folk. Harvey has even directly appropriated Huddie Ledbetter slave ballads, and her music echoes with the same sentiments of the songs men sang while working on chain gangs. In a sense, it's the perfect avenue for a female solo artist like Harvey; since Dry was released in 1992, she has proved through her appropriations that you can be a woman and scream at the top of your lungs and not become another Yoko Ono.

Harvey's subsequent records, though, drifted further and further away from the rough world of Dry: Rid of Me (1993), 4-Track Demos (1993) and To Bring You My Love (1995). Is This Desire (1998) was almost too strange, and Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea (2000) was very nearly a pop record. But Uh Huh Her places Polly Jean right back into her element; the songs are simplistic in their melodic structure, but ache with the encroachment of modern emotional complexities. "Pocket Knife" tells the story of a girl who responds violently to time passing over just an electric guitar and tambourine, and "Shame" has Harvey singing "You changed my life, you were as grim as grass" as a melodica hums in the background. The record gradually dips into a quieter realm, but quiet or loud, each song is elegant in its raw desperation.

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