Category Archives: PJ Harvey

I Never Promised You A Deadline. Wait. Did I? (Wish there was some way to go back and check…)

Yup, it’s 2012. And we’ve only dealt with three of many. So what? Just because the number changes, we gotta stop looking back? Nuts to that, brothers and sisters. We press on.

I was planning to keep this one at bay for a while, but…

Nominee #4 – Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, Vagrant/Island-Def Jam

It made everyone's list. It must be good!

I managed to get my hands on a digital copy (okay, a CD) and have had it playing in the car for the past few days, so I felt that I’d hold off on the other LPs I wanted to shred and focus on this one.

I’ve got sort of a love/meh thing going with Polly Jean. I respect her, but truth is she leaves me cold every few years. I found her first album electrifying, actually living up to the gushing press that she was receiving at the time. The follow up? Not so much. Friends were turned on by Rid of Me, while I extolled the virtues of Dry. (I was always that guy… Random 1990s friend: “Hey man, have you heard the new Sonic Youth?” Me: “Yeah, it’s fine. I prefer Daydream Nation. That was when they were really good.” You could swap out just about any big name alt-rock band in that era and the conversation would have remained the same. I passed up a LOT of good stuff due to my contrary nature.)

While that may have been a byproduct of my need to seem “cooler-than-thou,” even now — as a more mellow and accepting middle aged man — I think Dry has stood the test of time far better than Rid. And then came To Bring You My Love. The sound was BIG, the music was dark, the lyrics were Nick Cave-y in all the right ways. (This was long before I came to find Cave somewhat irritating.) It was one of those albums I couldn’t get out of my head. Powerful stuff. And then… Meh, Part II. First it was the collaboration with John Parish, which was mildly boring, and then Is This Desire? which totally fell flat for me. So, I figured, whatever. Two good records, a couple of duds… Let’s see what comes next. And then… Stories From the City! Brilliant! Hell, the record even made me learn to appreciate Thom Fucking Yorke for goodness’ sake. That was no mean feat. (I had serious problems with Radiohead. I have since managed to get over them and learn to like/love them, depending. Still can’t listen to The Bends, though.)

This time, I was ready for the dud. And it came…

Uh Huh Her. Muh Muh Meh.

And then… Nothing…

I waited for the next one, which was sure to blow me away.

But… Nothing…

And then…

White

Chalk

I bought it on LP the first chance I could get my hands on it. Listened to it. If it were possible for my records to truly “gather dust” (There’s not a lot of space on the shelf for that to happen.) my copy of White Chalk would look like it had been pulled out of a bucket of the same. I have never had a record leave such a non-impression on me. Way to go, Polly! You broke the streak. (I will quickly mention the second collaboration with Parish from 2009 to say that it had a couple of interesting tracks, but lyrically bordered on the embarrassing.)

I feel it necessary to interject into this tasty narrative of elation and bitterness that with EVERY PJ Harvey record comes the press hype and near-orgasmic heaping of praise that makes it seem that this new album will destroy every record in history!  I have been burned many times by hype-obsessed fan-boy journalists who think that just because it’s by artist “X,” it MUST BE WONDERFUL. Not true. Most times. The problem arises when those albums turn out to be utter crap, and the journalists/hacks have to come up with some excuse or distraction to remove themselves from the heap. (Not so much with that third Oasis record, though, eh? The rampant gushing and equally embarrassing backlash they threw at Be Here Now only made all those jerks even more excuse-laden.)

That said, let’s take a moment to consider 2011’s Let England Shake.

Hype? Yup. Her best ever? Sure! Pitchfork? An 8! Spin? A 9! NME? Better than sliced bread!

Year end accolades? Oh, hell yes. In fact, it’s one of the few that I am going to wax critical of that appears on just about every mainstream music press list! Fab, right? Well, the funny thing is…

…I’m not impressed. Anymore. When I first brought it home and spun it, Let England Shake was a nice change from her last couple of records. It’s musically interesting, lyrically it stands out as some of her best work, so I mulled. Yes, I just said “some of her best work.” But, after listening to it a few more times, and spending a good deal of time with it over the last couple of days, I just don’t care. It’s… Well, it’s just another “meh.” Why? How can I kick aside one of music-journodoms’ 2011 all-stars? Well, I walk away from each listen of Let England Shake not hearing the echo of the music in my head (which has gotten rather boring and thin as time has worn on) or finding enlightenment in the words (which are too filled with little cliches and forced “hooks” for my taste) but rather, I keep hearing the din of praise for those who are willing to jump on bandwagons far too quickly without letting the work sink in.

I know I’ve pissed off one person with my opinion of this platter. You know who you are. I don’t care. It may grow on me again, I managed to like and accept Rid Of Me, but Let England Shake came on like a flash but didn’t linger. Sorry. Although I did like that she borrowed from a somewhat obscure Police song (“Bed’s Too Big Without You”) for “This Glorious Land.”

Score: 6 out of 10. Still worth listening to, but now doubtful for the final list.

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