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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voice in the Dark
"A voice comes to one in the dark.
Imagine."

Samuel Beckett (Company 1980).

....and here we have the voice of Polly Harvey. Stripped Bare.

Like the old woman in the rocking chair in Beckett's 'Rockaby';
alone listening to the cracked sound of her own voice.
Memory. Longing. Loss. Hope. Futility.

This is indeed a...
Published on 28 Mar 2008 by The Wolf

versus
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Songs And Poor Performance
On another website there is footage of PJ performing 'Grow, Grow, Grow' on one of those late night arty French chat shows. She performs it accompanying herself on an autoharp and some kind of foot pedal. It is quite simply electrifying, one of those "wow" moments all too rare in listening to music. If you listen to the same song here it sounds like a demo version, with a...
Published on 15 Jan 2011 by Amazon Customer


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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work of genious, 21 Sep 2007
By 
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
I have not been a big fan of PJ Harvey but I have always respected what she does. I listened to this new album out of curiosity. However, something astonishing happened. From the first notes of the opening track I was spellbound. I listened to the whole album not quite believing what a work of genious I was introduced to and I certainly cannot say this for many albums from the first listen. I am not going to go into great detail. All I can say is that the album is a work of genious and an instant classic. Not a typical PJ Harvey album but a stand alone work of art. I very rarely write online reviews but listening to this album I felt compelled to write one. It may not be to everyone's taste but then again nothing is. The only words I can find to describe White Chalk would be haunting, mesmerising and out of this world.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 23 Sep 2007
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
Where are the guitars? Where is the oft-imitated PJ Harvey aggressive growl? They're gone, and in their place is something strange and distant, driven by the piano and vocals that push the higher end of Polly Harvey's register. Lyrically it's downbeat - recurring images of death and loss abound. Somehow though it's far from depressing. Instead, it's an eerie and beautiful record that grips you from its opening chords, and its hold deepens with each listen. This is a great, great release from one of music's most distinctive voices.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low mood music of the highest order, 29 Oct 2007
By 
Polly13 (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
Let's be honest - there are certain kinds of music and certain artists that the happy-clappy masses are never really going to get and, apart from her odd forays into the charts with one or two of her more accessible songs over the years, Polly Jean Harvey falls into this category. Moreover, it's probably fair to say that many of her fans have a greater-than-average fondness for music with life's darker sentiments at its heart.

I tried to listen to White Chalk when I first got it a couple of weeks ago, but I was in a pretty up-beat frame of mind and it just didn't sit well with me that night. In fact it started to pull me down a bit, and I almost decided that down-vibe music was not my thing any more.

However, we all hit bad days now and again and today was one of 'em for me, so I thought I'd take advantage of my low mood and give PJ another go. Make no mistake - this is music best listened to if you have some inner darkness that needs exorcising.

Wouldn't you know it - she sounds fantastic now. I put it on at about 11.00pm, it's now gone 1.30am and I can't stop playing it; God knows what time I'm going to get to bed tonight.

Only a truly great artist could produce an album that feels so insubstantial, sparse, fragile, at times even monotonous and uneventful, but still manages to captivate you immediately.

Polly Jean Harvey has done it again; what a gal.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The words are tightening around the throat of the one I love", 29 Oct 2007
By 
David Bell (York, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
Blood and death, longing and loss, and waiting, always waiting for a love that will never be requited.

Yes, welcome to another happy-clappy PJ Harvey album!

As a long time PJ Harvey fan I approached this album with some trepidation - it was clearly going to be very different to her previous work.

The first listen was somewhat disappointing - the overall impression was of the songs sounding similar to each other. Further listening however has convinced me that this is one of the best, if not the best, albums she has ever done. It won't appeal to all the fans of her previous work as it is very much an album of hidden depths rather than the more 'in your face' approach of her previous albums.

Polly has always had a way with words, but here she excels herself, with many memorable lyrics. This is an album that rewards careful listening - it's definitely not background music.

Where on earth will she go from here?
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black as night, White as chalk, 28 Jan 2008
This review is from: White Chalk [VINYL] (Vinyl)
I initially heard this LP before Christmas, but I was distracted by the Festivities & Slade telling us it was here again- against such magpie bright baubles, I filed it away for a later, darker date.

Now that Winter has us wrapped up in her grave-cold grip, Polly Harvey's new record makes a great deal more sense. Stripped down to a pre-Blues (1905) 'parlour' sound, this is rock n roll from the workhouse, if the Victorians had decided to invent it without the benefit of electricity, pickups & amplifiers.

Eschewing guitars, pedals & distortion, Polly Harvey mines her darkness from the instruments one would have found in any turn of the century English music hall; piano, broken harps, strings & most importantly the human voice. The songs are perhaps best listened to alone, in the creeping darkness of evening or the barren landscape of dawn; whichever way yer hear, this is crepuscular music.

Standout tracks include evil Beach-Boys spell 'The Devil', the yearning 'Grow Grow Grow' & an ominous & hallucinatory 'When Under Ether'. The songs here would be a pefect accompaniment to Cormac McCarthy's
'Blood Meridian' or the darkest corners of Edward Gorey & Dame Darcy's tales of morbid curiosity, with all the charm of moonless nights & bottled spiders.

Whether this will be a new direction or a one-off glimpse behind the curtain remains to be seen- but 'White Chalk' will remain as powerful & haunting for as long as the night endures.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very pleasant surprise... :), 19 Sep 2007
By 
Rui Almeida (Santa Rosa, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
This is a very unexpected album, a very surprising turn in direction for PJ Harvey. I must say I've been half expecting for a few years that she finally started releasing something mediocre. It's what seems to happen to almost every good musician after some 5-8 albums. They just come to a plateau in their evolution (or even a regression) and, instead of stopping and sparing us, they start putting out mediocre material with half the feeling that they had in the beginning of their career. Only a very few artists survive the test of time. With this album, PJ Harvey convinced me she's one of those artists.
She got to a point in her career where she felt a change of direction was in order and she went for it. She learned to play the piano a bit and decided to try new grounds with her voice, new registers and vocalizations that were foreign to her so far. This is all very nice and good but any good music appreciator knows that all technical devices are useless without true feeling behind them. And that's where I believe this album becomes more than just Polly playing around with new stuff. She's found a new voice, I believe, lyrically as well as musically. And it's beautiful! (in my humble opinion). She's grown as a lyricist (probably as a result of her dabblings in poetry and of course of her growth as a human being) and those who've witnessed PJ's evolution through the years can really see that something changed here, that's she's taken a leap in maturity. By maturity here I mean a new confidence in whom she is and a bigger willingness to expose her more fragile sentiments without the edge of male aggressiveness that she always had with her so far. With PJ I think that her more aggressive, male side was a protection she used, as if to say that, if we tried to get in too deep into what she was saying, she would belt us in the mouth. She finally decided to shed that and to expose her more tender feelings without putting that mask for fear that she would be attacked. Of course this is a completely subjective opinion and I may be completely wrong. But it does seem to be the more personal album that PJ's written so far - and it seems that she's not as afraid as before to expose more tender parts of her.
I find it very endearing, what she has done, actually. Mainly because I feel very grateful for having been given the opportunity to watch a great artist grow and try new things, and putting herself in the (potentially vulnerable) position of sharing this more fragile and tenderly beautiful music with the rest of us. I feel honored that PJ trusted us to listen to her new, more vulnerable material. It's a risk she's taken, to take such a leap and knowing she will alienate her more harsh-sound-loving fans. It just vouches for that maturity that I was talking about earlier and to the fact that this woman is on her own path, and will not try to please, nor will be influenced by the ideas that others want to have of her. She's her own person, and that's really good to know in a world where so few artists have the courage to walk their own path.
It's still too soon to say this is my favorite PJ Harvey album, but it certainly seems like it's going to be up there. It's been a while since a new album made my heart swell with emotion and brought tears to my eyes. Give it a listen and you may find out what I mean. Or maybe not...
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What?... a 45!, 8 Oct 2007
By 
Michael Dalgleish "MdD" (Staffordshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: White Chalk [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Muscially, this one will take some work on the part of the listener. Its true value will become apparent after numerous replays. The best music always strikes me like this at first, so don't be put off.
This edition:
... is vinyl at its best, pressed on solid heavy-grade disc with very low surface noise. Just remember that it plays at 45 rpm, there is no indication of this on the disc, or the sleeve that this full album plays at a non-standard speed. There can be a sound-quality penalty in fitting so much time on a disc when running at this speed.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just don't wait three, four years for new album !!!, 29 Sep 2007
By 
Tibor Tot - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
None of PJ's previous albums was quite the same as others, but White Chalk is totally different. She has removed roughness (guitars, rhythm) and ventured into calmer territories. PJ learned piano and upgraded her voice. This is a good, precise and very listenable album, like all her others. She just showed again she's a great artist by not repeating herself and still creating a great music.

Four stars only because of shortness (34').
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "as soon as I'm left alone, the devil wanders into my soul...", 30 Sep 2007
By 
L. Omelasz "brekkie_tiffs" (Dundee, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
...and so begins this collection of chilling and desolate songs. with piano replacing electric guitar and high, falsetto vocals replacing her melodic snarling, pj harvey no longer sounds angry or even in control of her situation; she sounds fragile, lost; bitter; scared, even. her pleads of "Come! Come!" on the album opener, demonstrates this idea of pj being a helpless little girl, with her pleads directed at someone (or something) that never responds. this theme of unrequited love continues in "Dear Darkness" and "Grow Grow Grow", with pj in the latter (or the narrator, if you will), requesting her 'Mommy' to teach her how to make the object of her desire return the same feelings (reinforcing the 'little girl' idea). when we get to 'when under ether', abortion - another recurrent theme in the album - is alluded to for the first time, and combined with the unrequited love theme (and also betrayal), powers the album through to its close. to support these combined themes, mountains appear as recurring motifs of death, specifically the "white chalk hills of Dover" (the same hills in Shakespeare's King Lear whereby the blinded Gloucester wishes to throw himself off of). in the title track, white chalk hills and Dover are explicitly referred to, providing the album with one of its many chilling moments: the narrator is so guilt-ridden from being pregnant that she wishes to kill herself and her unborn child. "Scratch my palms, there's blood on my hands" - in the world in which the album revolves, peace and harmony is corrupted, and the idea of children and love bring sadness rather than happiness. there is no resolve to unhappiness, other than death ("Before Departure") but even so, the narrator doesn't escape her bleak life. in the album's closer, its most chilling (and strongest) moment ("The Mountain"), we return to the ominous mountains, whereby the narrator appears to be trapped as some sort of ghoul (even further suggested by harvey's wordless howling that closes out the song), with betrayal and unhappiness still plaguing her. a bleak and somewhat terrifying note for the album to end on (naturally) but still remarkable: this bleak tale of isolation, betrayal et cetera is mind-blowing brilliance. also, pj harvey doles out 2007's strongest, profound album yet in just half an hour. beat that.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars music from another dimension, 6 Oct 2007
By 
Ricardo Manuel S. Parreira "rmsp" (Lisbon, Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Chalk (Audio CD)
When artists such as PJ Harvey manage to reinvent their musical world everytime they want, are brave enough to do so with a 180º turn, and are talented enough to pull it off brilliantly, then all those taking a fancy to her work should feel very happy...well...I do!! She has trodden a rather lonely road in a world where truly gifted musicians are very hard to come by, but she has always done it with style, confidence, tons of raw, sexually charged energy, and loads of talent. All of a sudden she gives us (her fans) White Chalk. I was taken aback, like many of you must have been too. It's eerie, it's calm and balmy, it's ethereal, it's earthy and also mystical, it's primal, it is a very beautiful record. More so than probably any of her previous records, this one has been critically acclaimed and is considered one of her best. This does not mean one should like it instantly. In fact, because it is such an exquisite piece of work, it may not even appeal to you. However, I hope you give it a try, and listen to it carefully. It is not one of those records to listen to in a hurry. Art is not ment to be rushed, so if you can take the time, prepare yourself to be transported to another time and dimension, and I hope you'll be touched by this awesome collection of songs as I have.
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White Chalk by PJ Harvey (Audio CD - 2007)
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