I know these views are HORRIBLE on 999 levels, but on one level—musically—I feel justified in sharing these opinions. She’s beeen making “coffee-table rock” for too long now. Most of her albums sound just blow by now, depending on a mantra of backstory and Nick Cave references to be palatable. Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross thinks there’s something significant, something mystical in her choice of recording her new album in a 19th century church. To her credit I could sense PJ squirming at the question. I hope she’s getting the message that her message is getting to too many of the wrong people, turning her into some healing crystals witch for suburban power moms to talk about while drinking chai after dropping the kids off in the SUV.
Well lets just say that I had a complete opposite reaction to the interview and song samples today when driving home and hearing her interview on Fresh Air.
I must freely admit I have only a passing knowledge of PJ’s music, but the little bits and bobs I’ve heard over the years I’ve enjoyed. I do not own any of her previous releases. This new one might be my first purchase.
I also admit that listening to the interview today she at first came off as very prim and proper and pretentious. But then for me it turned into confidence. I took away from the interview that she knows what she wants to do/say with her music and she’s not afraid to take credit for it (and it’s quality). And my hat is off to her for wanting to do different things with each release.
I’m listening to the NPR preview now and so far I am enjoying it all.
And for the record, If I had the opportunity to make my album in a 19th century church – I’d jump at the chance.
To be clear, mrclean, I only heard the first and last few minutes of the interview. I thought PJ sounded good in it. Terry Gross was bugging me more with her attempts at getting Harvey to get pretentious and “witchy.” I agree that Harvey sounded confident and kept her responses “on point.” My beef is with the long run of albums that just sound boring to me, or more boring than her first couple of records promised.
You are right – Terry did sound a little like a gushing fan-girl at times. I was surprised at her enthusiasm for Polly considering she (Gross) usually goes for the show-tunes jazz-singer types…
I’ve LOVED Terry for so long and still do, but the last couple of years she seems to be suffering from being hermetically sealed in her little world, like we all might get now and then. It may have started a couple of years ago, when she interviewed Richard Carpenter, who wanted no business discussing Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar.”
As for Harvey, I promise to check out this entire album a couple of times in case there are some songs I can dig.
I really dig her. I’ve been listening to her previous records the past couple of weeks in preparation for the new album. Usually I don’t get into artists who seem centered on exploring the female sensibility, for reasons that may or may not be obvious but which are also probably not PC. But she seems deeper than that.
Mod you may like this song from her second collaboration with John Parish, which came out a couple of years ago:
I can’t really guess what your reaction to the video might be.
I admit I like it when she rocks it up a bit, and I had issues with her last album, because it very much does not rock. But she’s one of those artists that I trust to follow her heart wherever it takes her. She’s deep, and I understand that I may be too shallow to understand everything she does, at least right away.
And she was one of Don Van Vliet’s few friends late in his life, and you’ve got to give her credit for that.
I didn’t know she did a second album with Parish. Yes, this song is much more to my liking. The video delivers too. I like it best when her music is in the same vein as that last Nirvana record, with some evil cooking down under. I’m sure she’s got a few songs I might like on her last half dozen (or whatever) albums, but too often, these days, she sounds kind of misty, like U2 or a couple dozen dreamy Britpop bands.
Ha, one of my favorite Terry Gross interviews was with Mick Jones and Tony James – not really “show-tunes jazz-singer types.” And she had a great banter going on with them.
I meant to say that most of that album doesn’t sound like this. There’s a series of interviews with the two of them on youtube where she seems very cool:
I didn’t hear the Terry Gross interview. And I have not heard all of the new PJ Harvey album as of yet. But these thoughts/opinions:
1. Terry Gross – love her. I like that she intelligently interviews quite the cast of characters and that after I listen to her interview someone, I want to know more about the interviewee. She has a sense of humor and seems to have done her research about her interview subjects. I don’t know how much say she has in her choice of interviewees, but anyone who can thoughtfully and respectfully interview Lynne Cheney and Mick Jones is ok in my book/radio station.
2. PJ Harvey. I happen to reside within the Church of Polly Jean. Mr. Royale is a bona fide fan, so over the years, I’ve had a chance to hear more and more of PJ. I liked her early stuff a lot, partly due to the time period (it came out when I was dj’ing) and because she seemed to be one of the best examples of the Loud Assertive Gals of the early 90’s. (And well matched with the soft, sensitive male groups of that era. See Trash Can Sinatras) Her evolution of an artist has been interesting, and not just related to who her sexual partners have been during any particular year (Nick Cave, Tricky). There has always been one fabulous song on each album. For example,
from a so-so album.
Mr. Royale and I finally got to see her live when she was promoting her last album, “White Chalk.” And she was amazing – a great performer who really brought her songs to life. If she can do that, on tour for an album which I believe contained no guitars, I’m willing to bring her my love. Even if the efforts aren’t 100% successful.
Oops, my error (album tour, not PJ review) – we saw her touring that last PJ/John Parrish album, not “White Chalk.” Regardless, a great show.
I love Terry too. I didn’t mean to come off as slagging her. A few of us here on RTH are friends with a producer of her’s so we know that they get really great interviewees for a reason.
I listened to the album last night and really like it.
I’m not going to make judgements about any change in her persona, because I’ve always been uncomfortable with bits and pieces of it. I will say this: I loved the first three albums and still think they’re brilliant (though the third one is the only one that isn’t wildly erratic.) Everything she’s done since then hs bored the heck out of me on a musical level.
THAT’S what I’m talking about! I feel like she’s got little “game,” in basketball parlance, when she’s not dynamic, when she’s not “playing above the rim.” The new single sounds like “The Battle of Nevermore.”
hottest ugly girl in the world.
I will say that the drive not to repeat oneself has led some artists astray. Of course purposely making the same record over and over for commercial reasons is to be frowned on, and I’m as capable as anyone else of getting bored with an artist who has a limited range. But constantly seeking after novelty for its own sake really can pull artists away from their strengths.
I haven’t really thought about PJ Harvey–one of my favorite female-fronted bands of the early 90s–for about 15 years and I don’t see that changing today.
On the other hand, I really miss Beavis & Butthead.
i agree very strongly with this. i only recognize 2 albums by Tori Amos, 4 by PJ Harvey, 2 by Liz Phair, 3 by Spiritualized, 6 or 7 by Sonic Youth,5 or 6 by Nick Cave…
Artists are often stuck making the same record over and over, or making shit nobody wants to hear. get a fuckin job, ya know?
I associate PJ with a car. Just after I had skillfully extracted The Waterboys’ This Is the Sea intact from the cassette deck of my 1987 Dodge Charger — I got a little over confident and inserted To Bring You My Love, which was jammed in there for a couple of weeks. Long Snake Moan, anyone?
Beavis and Butthead are coming back.
Her records up through To Bring You My Love: unforgettable.
Later ones, most of which I’ve listened to several times: they create a pleasant enough mood while I’m listening to them, but afterward, I can’t really remember them.
In fact, Mr. Mod, I’d love to create a thread about this (not sure I know how to do that in this new site format; I’ve been away for awhile): not releases that you love or hate, but ones that, no matter how many times you play them, you can’t really remember that much, later, about what they sound like.
mwall, let’s talk offlist. You should have Back Office privileges. I think it’s a bit easier to craft a thread with this software. Stay tuned!
Is this the Bizarro world Rock Town Hall??? Calling bullshit on PJ & praising Soul Asylum. Hello.
Just keeping things honest, jeangray, just part of my continuing efforts to keep our perspective on rock as level headed as possible.