on 8 May 2001
Even though I've had this album for over six years, I had to take this opportunity to try to express how amazing it is. It would be easy to dismiss this album as 'angry chick rock,' but what a mistake that would be! Yes, this album is about relationships with men... about passion and longing and desire and pain and obsession, in almost every context, expressed in so many different ways, from the sublime to the down-and-dirty. The genius of the album lies in its cohesiveness. It is one of those rare works that must be listened to from beginning to end. Rather than a collection of songs, it is an experience that must be heard to be believed.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the albums I own (some 2000) where I like every single track. This is one of them. Polly Harvey's finest hour as a musician / performer and a deeply intense and disturbing listen, shot through with a wonderfully black humour.
The sheer sonic rush of the three-piece Dry and Rid of Me is banished in favour of a much more eclectic mixture of styles, blending some meanacing organs with flamenco and acoustic blues guitars, upon which Polly could weave her vocal magic. And how. She growls, howls, hisses, moans, shrieks, thunders and begs her way through this collection, alternating from lost, crushed girl to potential killer to seductive predator to banshee, frequently within the same song. Like most of Polly's work, it borders on being a concept album, and is all the better for it.
High quality musicianship is evidenced throughout. The greatest compliment you can provide is to say there is nothing to complain about; you don't notice anything wrong, ero, it's excellent. Doesn't happen often that. Production is generally good, though there's some compression. Nothing too bad though, and it's clearly been mixed for a slightly 'dark' sound. There are no stand out tracks, given that they all belong in place, but it contains some of her most famous pieces; Down by the Water, Send His Love to Me, Long Snake Moan and C'mon Billy are all there and ready to suck you in. You can practically see Polly's wry smile in many places; she's a gifted wordsmith, and deliberately ambivalent with her stories.
Listening to this album for the first time, I could see that it was not going to be like any other I had bought. Being the first album by P J Harvey that I have bought, I wasn't sure what to expect. I soon realised that this would be music that creates a love-hate relationship for the listener. This is very dark music, darker than anything else in my music collection. Yet, as other reviewers have also pointed out, this darkness seems to draw you in despite yourself. Do not be surprised if this album takes a few plays before you properly get into it.
One of the standout tracks for me is definitely "C'mon Billy", a song in which she addresses the man she has a child with, imploring him not to turn his back on his child.
"Long snake moan" is another superb song, the intro draws you into it as soon as it starts.
"Down by the water" is a chilling song, really quite disturbing. However, despite this, you are still able to see the qualities of the song - Harvey's voice makes it haunting and totally unforgettable.
The only gripe I really have with this album is that I would have liked the lyrics included in the album booklet.
The only real way to find out about this album is to experience it for yourself. If rock music is to your taste, give this a try. Do not expect lots of lovely cliches about love and relationships - you won't get them here. When she talks about love, it is usually the darker side of love.
on 15 April 2004
To Bring You.. is PJs 3rd album released in 95 (not counting the 4 track demos), & marked a bold adventurous change in direction artistically from her previous 2 blues punk offerings. Its a dark, dramatic, eerie & of course sexually charged collection of songs that center around themes of desperate longing, lonliness, yearning of love, & deaath, all deliverd with uncompromising femeninity. With the help of long time collaborators Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) & John Parish, both of whom later contributed on ITDesire?,& Mick agian on Stories, a startlingly original & imaginative array of instruments & influences are used here. Theres the e bow, violins & violas, organ, piano, chimes, bells, marimba, & more im sure, accompanying her vocals & lending heavy atmospherics to her stirring narratives of desperate characters.
The arrangements are quite minimal mostly, with percussion used perfectly not overshadowing her vocals/ narrative. There are a couple of heavier rocking tracks; Meet Ze M., Long Snake, & the strange clausterphobic I Think.. , but i found these failed to captivate me the way
the rest of the album did with its powerful 'cinematic' imagery, instead sounding a little like familiar 'alt/rock' territory (in the 1st two).
Meet Ze Monsta although still quite slow is one of the heavy ones; Corrosive guitars chug away with lots of distortion creating an industrial feel that would later be expanded on beautifully in ITD?. A whistle sounds half way through cutting the music to fuzzed out bass (or keyboards?) brimming with static. The song suddenly ends with her screech & the whistle!.. then without pause into one of my faves WFTMan..
It opens with the darkest rudest bass intro any D&Bass fan would approve of! Its dark, funky, creepy, &sexy at the same time. "In the night i look for love.. get my strength from the man above.. god of pistol god of steel.. god is here behind the wheel.." I imagine it to be about a 'lady of the night' in some David Lynch-esque world, tragic twisted & sexy in a debased sort of way. She half talks half sings & mumbles nonsensically in background, as if teetering on the edge of sanity.. makes for sinister listening! Again soo minimal you mainly hear the bass, organ & percussion (simple drum pattern & maracas), it works! In style it finishes with her doing a gobbling cookie monster impression & much distorted bass action.
Cmon Billy- another highlight is about a woman desp. pleading with her lover to stay. "Cmon Billy, you look good to me.. how many nights now your child inside of me.. dont forget me.. i swear your the only one". Tambourine, acoustic guitar, & the vocal style lend a flamenco/ gypsy feel. Makes you feel like strutting around, hands raised above your head clapping at precise intervals. The percussion & drums have a sort of celtic quality whilst the organ & strings take it to its own rousing conclusion.
Teclo (my next fave) starts with tinkering chimes & a moody guitar intro.. "Long goes the night.. longer the day.. teclo your death will send me to my grave..", before a blisfully dreamy guitar hook sweeps you away. Lonliness & longing evident again in the chorus, "let me ride let me ride.. just let me ride on his grace for a while".
Long Snake is th other rockin tune. " You wanna hera my long snake moan.. MOAN!" she growls in full dominatrix mode with whip cracking conviction.. "its my mojo workin!" she exclaims.. i then agree.
DBTW impresses too. "I lost my heart under that bridge to that little girl.. big fish little fish swimmin in the water, come back here & give me my daughter". She sings her backing vocals repeating the slyrics gently over & over. A mysterious song about a mother lamenting the death of her daughter that she's murderd? Again lots of fuzzed out static & simple percussion- (maracas?), & lovely violin plucking on ".. oh help me jesus come through the storm.. i had to lose her to do her harm.."
ITIAM doesnt really hold my attention, with its droning guitars & clausterphobic monotony, acts like a short interval before the gorgeous swoonin ballad SHLOVE..
"Wind & rain they haunt me.. look to the north & pray.. send him home today.. im beggin jesus pleeeeaase.." The flamenco vibe is here agian twith the catchy spanish style guitar & tambourine, hammond organ & strings, which just lift the track to sumptuous emotional heights.
The Dancer is the majestic finale to this collection & really shows off her unique vocal delivery. "He came riding fast like a pheonix out of fire flames.. he came bathed in light & spleandoured glory.. i cant believe what the Lord has finally sent me.." IMAGERY! Her voice is gloriously commanding like some 'high priestess'. "..ive looked low.. ive looked far to bring peace to my naked empty heart..AH!..AH?!..AHHHHHH!.. OHHHOOOOHHHHH OH.." she proceeds to shreik with both surprise & sexual delight, as the organ brings a 'hallowed' sombre dimension. Stunning.
On this album Polly plays out a variety of characters, different to on Stories.. where there seemd a much more candid expression of her life/ emotions at that time, although im sure thats here too, just not in the literal sense. I cant help but admire her ability to evolve in ways that are both challenging & risk taking, what a step from the equally brilliant but v. different ROM, & i can safely say ive never heard any thing like it before or since. The addition of MHarvey (bad seeds) influences (organ & strings), adds wonderfull richness & maturity to her work. This is so close to a 5* rating, but in my attempt to be objective & honest, i found both Stories & ITD? (which is kind of a progression of this album), 100% captivating, as opposed to the 80% on this. She is undoubtably a 5* talent, & much that appears here is 5* quality, but blimey has she set a standard for herself! All in all, for any fan whos missing this- its a must. As an intro id reccomend Stories, with its passionate elated & boisterous lust for life & romance, -(more stripped down rock), then one of the dark ones (ITD? or TBYML), then Demos & ROM- at her feral punk best! Whilst TBYML may take a few listens to get your head round- with all its dark intricacies, it is ultimately a very rewarding listen by a hugely talented/ unique artist.