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White Chalk

4.0 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Audio CD, 24 Sep 2007
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Vinyl, 24 Sep 2007
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Amazon's PJ Harvey Store

Frequently bought together

  • White Chalk
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  • Is This Desire?
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  • Uh Huh Her
Total price: £17.91
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Product details

  • Audio CD (24 Sept. 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal / Island
  • ASIN: B000VLIX6Q
  • Other Editions: Audio CD |  Vinyl |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,432 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Devil
  2. Dear Darkness
  3. Grow Grow Grow
  4. When Under Ether
  5. White Chalk
  6. Broken Harp
  7. Silence
  8. To Talk To You
  9. The Piano
  10. Before Departure
  11. The Mountain
  12. Splash Page Live Link

Product description

The Polly Jean Harvey you hear on White Chalk is not the wild harpy you heard gnashing and wailing on "Sheela-Na-Gig", or the urbane punk stateswoman of 2000’s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. No, this is another evolution in her singular career--one that sees electric guitar banished to the cobwebbed attic, tight cat-suit covered over by Victorian gown, and Polly’s yearning vocals sounding strangely removed, like they’re being broadcast from another, distant age. Piano is the primary instrument here, augmented by occasional, dusty sounding guitar or other, more esoteric stringed instruments--a sparse, limited musical canvas that places the emphasis on song and lyrics. And while initially, they seem foreboding and slow to open up, repeated spins reveal this to be a set of ghostly power and eerily timelessness. "Dear Darkness" is spacious and supremely measured, Harvey singing of words "tightening around the throat of the one I love", while the harp-accompanied "Grow Grow Grow" is impossibly highly-strung, its pain buttoned-up in constricting corsets and tight bows. Only on the closing "The Mountain" does she approach the cathartic anger of her previous work. But then, White Chalk is something else entirely--an icy English gothic that’s powerful in its choked restraint. --Louis Pattison

BBC Review

As any long term fan of PJ Harvey will tell you, the one thing that you can always expect from Polly Jean is the unexpected, and yet, even taking that into account, few people would have predicted that for her eighth studio album, she'd base the whole thing on an instrument she'd never played before.

Having spent 15 years ripping us to shreds, sometimes aurally and sometimes emotionally, with her guitar, White Chalk reels around the piano, something she couldn't play when she made her last album three years ago.

Thankfully, it doesn't feel like the experiment it might appear to be. Produced by the same pair who took her through To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire?, John Parish and Flood, it sits as a sister piece to both in its expansive sparseness and its lyrical desolation.

Polly's newfound love of tinkling the ivories is not the only unexpected thing about the album. For the most part, she sings much higher than normal, making for a sound that veers between the beautifully nightmarish and the soporific, particularly on the fear-filled 'The Piano'.

The result is an album that surprises, thrills and shocks. It is as if this album's self-produced predecessor, Uh Huh Her, marked a definite turning point for Harvey and she has decided to strip away the music, strip away the stories and return to the artist who offered up such powerful blows as 'C'Mon Billy', 'Man-Size' and even 'Sheela-Na-Gig'.

That feeling of the loss of layers reaches its pinnacle with 'Broken Harp'. Swirling round the most minimal of musical backings, the song swings on disappointment and disillusionment. Indeed, even with all her brutality before, she has never delivered a more distressingly honest moment than the opening lines; 'Please don't reproach me/for how empty my life has become'.

While other artists relax into their fame and fortune, Harvey continues to test both herself and her audience. Years ago, John Peel described PJ Harvey's debut single as 'admirable if not always enjoyable'. The same could be said of today's Polly Jean and that, in itself, is worthy of praise. --Chris Long

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