A Challenging but Rewarding Album

PJ Harvey and John Parish have teamed up again to follow up 1996’s ‘Dance Hall At Louse Point’. It’s very much classic PJ Harvey, steering away from the folk roots of her last album, ‘White Chalk’ and introducing some more energising guitar work, although maintaining the singer’s trademark earthiness.

Tracks like, ‘The Chair’ are certainly aided by some crashing percussion and cantankerous bursts of guitar work that spur the dreamy melody on. ‘A Woman A Man Walked By’ is an aggressive, fractious lyrical outburst in the vein of Nick Cave’s worst, it features Harvey and Parish growling, “Just to get up your fucking arse” over a raging guitar tune; taken out of context it may sound a little extreme but the vitriol sounds justified in the tune which quickly fades into the spiralling instrumental, ‘The Crow Knows Where All The Children Go’, a sprightly mix of shimmery guitar and glittering percussion. ‘Pig Will Not’ is a wild and crazed fable stitched together from Harvey’s preaching and raging yelps and a fierce backing of percussion and lithe guitars.

Elsewhere there are the typically delicate Harvey tracks, ‘April’ is a beautiful, understated number with tender insecurity while, ‘The Soldier’ may be slightly buried between two more forceful tracks, but it’s a sweet little string-accompanied song with soft, whimsical vocals that contrast its bloody lyrics. ‘Passionless, Pointless’ is a pretty, fresh-sounding number with florid backing and soothing vocals.

‘A Woman A Man Walked By’ is pretty much what you expect of PJ Harvey these days, although her spontaneity and unusual ideas are as much part of her work as any other distinguishing marks. It’s a strange and surreal affair that will leave you more puzzled that satiated, but PJ Harvey has never produced easy listening so it wouldn’t be expected of her or creative comrade Parish.