on 1 June 2004
Before hearing this album, I feared that P J Harvey might have made her first bad record. There was the problem of being the follow-up to the magnificent "Stories From The City...", only luke-warm reviews of the album in the press, and the threat of the "Mercury Award curse" - whereby winners' careers seem to go off the rails afterwards. Even after hearing some of the songs on the radio and internet, I was slightly disappointed that there weren't more heavy rockers on the album - some reports had compared "Uh Huh Her" with "Rid Of Me".
But we already have a "Rid Of Me", and Polly has never been one to tire us with remakes of albums. Most tracks sound uneasy at first, but give "Uh Huh Her" a few listens, and you'll find there's no other music you want to play.
The Life & Death Of Mr Badmouth is a slow but intense, growling rocker, and Polly sounds creepier than ever alongside a dirty guitar riff on It's You. Cat On The Wall and Who The F***? are delightfully black and rollicking but not in a way P J Harvey has been before. Pocket Knife is intriguingly understated and Shame is just amazingly involving. Even the more mellows tracks that I found difficult on first listens - The Slow Drug, The Darker Days Of Me And Him, and You Come Through - are completely captivating once they've taken hold.
Those that have all of P J Harvey's albums will know that they are vastly different from each other. "Uh Huh Her" follows suit but is no less genius. It's just understated genius.
on 6 June 2004
Uh Huh Her has been marked as a return to Polly's earlier albums. However approaching the album with this notion in mind proves rather misleading. Armed with Karen O's haircut and an abrasive guitar, Harvey launches into Who The Fuck? early on. Fans of Stories and earlier albums (Rid Of Me) will definitely appreciate this.
After this two minute offering though, it seems Harvey's aggression has been spent. Most of the album is minimalist, striking a balance between blues and folk, but the narrator is never content. Subversion, stolen innocence and poetic justice are all touched upon here (The Pocket Knife sees Harvey as a reluctant bride-to-be) Tracks such as You Come Through and one-minute instrumental The End also introduce a marine sound to her music (revisiting her youth perhaps), not forgetting Seagulls (a brief track of, well, seagull noises). The overall sound swings between delicate and dark, (It's You trembles under a crunchy guitar but the song never rises above a weary groan).
Harvey has created an album which touches upon moments from her entire career, and at the same time has managed to push her sound in a direction which offers the album its own individuality. Nowhere before the acoustic folk of The Desparate Kingdom of Love has Harvey sounded so learned. Johnny Cash would be proud.
on 8 June 2004
i guess after mercury prize winner 'stories...'
this album will be a cause of great controversy
those who like 'big' production might find it boring
but those who love art to its purest and minimalest use of means are bound to love it
songwriting is personal and straight to the point
pj does almost everything by herself
that's why it's such a precious work of art.
a handmade jewel in times of corporate music hysteria...
on 12 June 2004
As a fan of PJ Harvey's older work, in particular 'Is this Desire?', and a lover of her darker, more sinister tone; I have to confess i was a little unsatisfied with her last album, 'Stories from the city....' which i found in parts a little too like pop and rather lacking in substance.
'Uh Huh Her' has done a pretty effective job of winning me back!! Kicking off with the catchy and tough 'The life and death of Mr Badmouth', Harvey shows some of her old style with a return to strong bass, wild vocals and angsty lyrics. Although in my opinion the album still can't compare to 'Is this Desire' , and contains a few easily skip-able tracks which lack a really catchy theme, I find its the tracks that stand out and become caught in your memory that redeem it! Some of the best in my opinion are 'Its you', which has a darker, powerful sound which grows on you in the style of some of her older tracks, 'The life & death of Mr Badmouth', and 'The Letter'.
Overall, this album is well worth buying - possibly more so for fans of her old music before 'Stories..', but i promise parts of this album will grow on anyone who's ever liked Harvey's music - it is more of a mix of all her styles that should please everybody! This one will stay in my C.D player 'till her next release!!
on 25 July 2004
I was only introduced to PJ Harvey roughly two weeks ago. A friend of mine spotted her giving a concert in the Brixton Academy and convinced me to come along. I must say I was literally blown away by her energy. But at the same time, despite her huge success, she seems to have stayed modest and honest.
Since the concert I have been listening to Uh Huh Her over and over again. Never heard such a pure, direct, powerful and agitating work of music. It keeps growing with every time I listen to it. The sometimes called "lo-fi" production of the album feels more authentic than the most high profile and technically overproduced works nowadays. Somehow the songs connect directly to you. Especially "The slow drug" and "The desperate kingdom of love" sound as if she sings directly next to you. The powerful "...Mr. Badmouth" and "Who the fuck?" are just amazing. The songs work perfectly together, but have also no problem to stand on their own.
I think I have become a fan for life. Just bought "Stories..." what also is a good album but by far not as pure as "Uh Huh Her". Can't wait to hear her other works.
on 31 May 2004
I'm happy to see Polly back on familiar ground with this album. Although I enjoyed "Stories" as an album in its own right, I was unable to connect with it the way I had with that album's predecessors; most notably "To Bring". The majority of the pop sheen thrown over "Stories" is gone, to be replaced with the minimalistic brooding force of her earlier works. The bottom line here is that for fans who have been with Polly since her pre-"Stories" days should find this album to be one that sees heavy rotation in the disc changer. For those who jumped on PJ's gypsy band wagon during the "Stories" era, this may not be a palatable cup of tea. I plead with you, though. Give it time; it will grow on you. Better yet, revisit some of her earlier albums to prep yourself before giving "Uh Huh Her" a listen.
on 16 June 2004
Well done Polly! It was a real treat listening to PJ Harvey as we know and love her, after the last album 'Stories from the City', that was listenable but just mainstream and not her, it was my least favourite. But Huh Huh Her has to rank with 'to Bring you My Love' as being one of my favourites. The album combines the rawness of 'Dry' and 'Rid of Me' (Mr Badmouth, Who the Fuck, The Letter) with the orchestral effects of 'Bring you My Love'(Shame) and the low tempo electronic sound of 'Is this Desire?' (It's You, The Desperate Kingdom of Love). The albums strongest moments have to be the haunting track 'Shame', the hypnotising ballad 'You come Through' and the brooding melodies of 'the Desperate Kingdom of Love' and 'The Darker Days of Me and Him'.
However, the lyrics are more direct than they were in her earlier works, the lyrics were more metaphorical then. The directness is the only thing that this album has in common with 'Stories', which I guess is a sign that Polly has grown up. The frankness is summed up in the sleeve, where she says 'Let me Tell you about my brief history', so we know that she has probably lived through most of these songs.
on 1 June 2004
If you're someone who loved 'Stories' then I can see why you might not like this (Review 1). If you thought it was disappointing and overproduced then you'll love it. Okay so it's not quite back at the caustic heights of 'Rid of Me' or even quite as slinky as 'To Bring You My Love' but it's still a fine album with some wonderfully dark moments. This isn't meant to be an annoying 'I liked her before she was famous and I hate the recent stuff and you're rubbish if you like it' review. I can see exactly why 'Stories' was so well loved, I'm just saying this is different, and closer in tone to the earlier stuff, which will make a some people happier. Though I hope (and suspect) it could still be just polished enough to carry some of the fans picked up by 'Stories' along.
on 18 November 2005
“Later…with Jools Holland” introduces me to so many fantastic bands and artists I can barely keep up and now P J Harvey is one of them, or more accurately- very, very high up on my list of musicians whose back catalogues I now feel compelled to purchase thanks to that exceptional programme and of course, as a result of the consistently jaw-dropping, mouth-watering live performances of new material by veteran and amateur musicians alike, which never fail to get me standing up and moving awkwardly (why do the audience members all insist on doing that?) along with everyone else in the studio.
‘Stories from the city, stories from the sea’ (the critically acclaimed album that preceded this one) had long been on my Wish list after a friend’s recommendation, but before I saw what P J and her music were all about I was hesitant to buy before sampling and when I finally saw her perform…I was both relieved and regretful that I had waited- relieved because the taster-tracks she performed were very much my taste in music (and from what I’ve heard her previous album differs wildly from this latest offering) and regretful because I’d not been aware until now just how much of a musically exceptional and personally charismatic talent Harvey truly was.
“The Letter,” “Shame” and ‘Who the f**k?” were the tracks I was lucky enough to catch not just being sung, but embodied by Harvey and then catapulted from her soul into the studio. And luckily…the rest of the album is just as powerful as her performance of those three songs on that occasion- crammed with more of the same raw energy and conviction. However, these three songs are not the best examples of what this album is all about and definitely not an accurate cross-section of the record as a whole- in fact, there’s a complete contrast between these songs, which are consumed by negativity and bitterness and the rest of the album, which is just sublime- softly spoken lyrics, the bare-minimum use of instruments and a great deal more folksy. These softer songs reminded me of artists such as June Tabor, Azure Ray and even Tori Amos for their wild musings and utilisation of traditional instruments and it’s these ‘softer options’ that probably include some of my favourite songs from the album. ‘Pocket Knife’ is incredibly folksy with a monotonous tambourine jingle acting as a counterpoint to Harvey’s bizarre, but razor-sharp lyrics. ‘You come through’ is a wonderful change of pace- spiritual and uplifting as it builds to a crescendo, again very soft. But the most powerful example, be it of either the negatively-charged tracks or the softer, more benign ones has to be ‘The Desperate Kingdom of Love’ which is simply gorgeous- again Harvey is barely-audible as she whispers the lyrics, which are both beautiful and touching.
So, despite the critical characterisation of this album as angry and bitter, in equal measures it’s also at times very gentle and touching and that contrast works really well. Plus- this is by no means an over-produced record, with largely bare vocals and limited instrumental arrangements, making the music (even as it swings wildly between extreme chaos & negativity into utterly tender & peaceful ditties) incredibly sincere and heartfelt. A great introduction to Harvey.
on 24 July 2004
After living with this album for the best part of a month, i can safely say that i was not only too quick to judge & digest, but also not 'open' enough to experience the sincerity with which Uh Huh had been created. I am a huge HUGE fan of all PJs albums, including the much maligned Stories, & had felt initially put off by its apparent 'selfconciousness', (my first review June 16), the main dissapointment for me being 'Who The F**k', due to its ( in my opinion of course) weak lyrics in comparison to the the 'sharp as a tack' witty & 'no holds bared' tracks from ROM & Demos. That track aside, ive come to be completely drawn in to the hypnotic, sometimes dark sometimes gentle, & overwhelmingly tender & vulnerable qualities of this album.
I initially rated this 3.5 stars, ( & though it may seem 'mean' to only up it to a 4*), i feel it would be slightly dishonest of me to equal it to or rate it above (in my opinion of course) the sheer astonishing brilliance of either ITDesire?, (my fave), TBYML, Demos (fave), or Stories (another fave!) for that matter. However I have had a 'complete change of heart', & have been totally won over by the sheer intimacy that she's created. There are elements from all her albums here, albiet without the caustic intensity of Demos, nor the complex intoxicating layers of ITD?, or the intense emotional heights of TBYML, but the distorted bass heavy riffs, taut drum patterns, & down tempo electronic effects, which underscore the whole album, are still fresh & unlike anything previous, (ive included descriptions of the tracks on previous review). There seems to be a balance between dark & light on this album, Cat On The Wall is downright invigorating & funky & the likes of You Come Through, Shame, Slow Drug & DDO M& Him are delicate,sublime & sorrowfull @ the same time. Badmouth, The Letter & PKnife, exude dark strange & leftfield/ cleverly crafted arrangements , that would please fans of ITD? (in the first two), & TBYML in PK.
Polly has insisted that the songs should not be read as autobiographical, but at the same time emphasizes through her artwork (self portraits), & intimitae stlyle of production, that she is indeed "telling us about her brief history" (quote). Perhaps (and understandably so) keeping a bit of herself for herself. The warm 'homey' style production, (recorded produced etc. herself @ her family home), allows the sad gentle tender 'ballads' to resonate with mesmerizing beauty, & even the short 'intervals' which annoyed me so to begin with, (seagulls @ the beach, & The End the accordian recording 'for Vincent Gallo", i now find simply add to the ambience & reflective nature of the work as a whole. A woman at a stage where she can take stock, understand herself, & evaluate & reconcile all that has passed & that is present, that's what this album represents to me, (purely my personal perception of course). PJ has stated that Pknife was inspired from a Russian Folklore story, but still my gut feeling is of course that this translates to her sensibilities/ feelings at present.
Dedicated to her grandmother Mary Jane Harvey, who passed away during or around the time of this recording, Uh Huh Her is indeed yet another brave, challenging, work of art, built upon integrity & honesty. If you are a fan at all I strongly urge you to give it a go, & above all else to give it time, proof once again that the best/ boldest works often require a little time to work their understated yet powerful magic. Fool was I for doubting..