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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 10 May 2017
Polly H at her best. One of my favourite albums. ...And on vinyl too now!!!! The best way to hear it
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on 24 June 2017
Broken case
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on 28 February 2004
4-Track Demos is an essential part of the PJ Harvey story. As the title suggests, it's a collection of homemade solo demos made on four-track recording equipment. It consists of eight tracks from her classic 1993 album Rid of Me and six excellent new songs. Rid of Me was engineered by notorious noise auteur Steve Albini, and some critics felt that Albini's extreme production techniques buried some of Harvey's vocal range and sonic ideas under a mudslide of overamped guitar racket. 4-Track Demos leaves these great songs in their original state to preserve the pure, raw, intimate atmosphere of the recording. Rather than the dynamic rhythms of the three-piece band, Harvey does everything independently here: she plays guitar, drums, keyboards, and sings both lead vocals and multi-tracked backing. This gives an added force and clarity to her powerful voice and witty, erotic, disturbing lyrics. After hearing her chilling howls on Snake and Hook, you'll either fall in love for life or reach for the new Dido CD.
The other six tracks are outtakes that didn't make the final cut of Rid of Me or were deemed somehow incompatible with the album, but make no mistake - these songs are as good as if not better than the material on that album. The best is probably a devastating, hypnotic ballad called Hardly Wait, which ranks among Harvey's greatest ever musical achievements. There's also the irresistibly wacky Reeling, which opens with one of rock's all-time killer couplets ("I wanna bathe in milk, eat grapes/Robert DeNiro, sit on my face"), and the lazy, porch-rocking blues drawl of the closing track Goodnight. All in all, 4-Track Demos is much more than a curio for hardcore, die-hard collectors of PJ Harvey's unique output; it's vital listening in its own right.
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on 29 May 2004
Demos is a collection of (as it states) demos recorded on a simple 4 track, with multi instrumentalist Harvey doing vocals, guitar, backing, keyboard, organ, clapping, finger clicking, tambourine & harmonica in a 'one lady' show. This is an astounding & refreshing take on low down & dirty garage punk blues at its best! Polly always delivers the most sincere ripsnorting intense passion & here is no exception. She uses her unique vocals to max. effect as an instument itself, howling crying singing taunting like some possessed banshee. I cant think of any other woman in rock history that lets rip with as much genuine intensity; Courtney? Patti? Peaches? Souxie?, all pale in her presence. Never afraid to express the baser emotions of lust, rejection pain & 'ugliness' etc, with equal amounts of drama & style. She takes that raw 'unrehearsed' soulfull essence of the blues (think BW Johnson, Howlin Wolf etc), and makes it her own modern interpretation with wild feral sexually charged energy, bursting with feminine charm & wit.
Minimal & sparse the apparent 'simplicity' of these recordings belies the underlying level of skill & talent for songwriting PJ posseses. From the delta blues slide guitar opening of Ecstacy, to the crunching dripping with sex feedback drenched opening of Hook, her sonic assault on the senses never lets up.. not once. It is in yer face all the way through, & is worthy of a place sandwiched between Howlin Wolf & Iggys Raw Power in your record collection. Most of the songs here appeared on pjs second album ROM released 6 months prior to this one, except these 7; Reeling, Driving, Ecstacy, H Wait, Easy, M bike & Goodnight; all of which are much much more than just 'curios' for the die hard fan, they are accomplished & brilliant. All the others appear in a much 'rawer' state. I would wager that this is the better of the two simply for the fact that her vocals come right to the front of the mix, unlike on the Albini procuced ROM. Albini (producer of The Pixies 'Surfer Rosa" & Nirvanas "In Utero"), was known for his tendency to mix down vocals in favour of much noise, so her delivery that is oh so at the core of what carries her music, really shines here. There are some good laughs here too- Mbiike; a song about a girl pissed off with competing with a motorbike for her lovers attention, & Reeling with its classic line.. " I wanna bathe in milk, eat grapes Robert Di Niro sit on my face.. I cant sleep for thinking send my head a reelin.... Reelin! Two of my faves are Easy; with its comment on chauvanist male perceptions of female sexuality/ 'promiscuity' with the lines.. " Oyster pearls..you easy girls..your dead good.. all the men say legs wide hips swingin like a doorway....eeaaaaaaaasyah! .. your givin me no leeway.. & I deserve it..I open once & you call me devils gateway.." , with much 'balls out' guitar action!
Driving is a dark pleaser- opens with pj pressing record & clearing her throat, before proceeding to take on the role of some damned banshee driving in a car to what would seem like her ultimate destruction... " tell him im drivin its alright.. tell him that ive had a skinfull... tell him that I couldn't sit still.. imagine your whole self is filled with light.. tell him im drivin..ohhhhh oh.." The catchy hook in the tune carries you along- kinda remindes me of Iggys Pasanger, except MUCH MUCH more wild & dark.
As you can probably conclude, I am a fan. Polly has never really produced a 'bad' album. Dry (the first) is her weakest to date, but that still contained the excellent Dress, Sheila Na Gig, & Victory & warrants a 3* effort. All the rest have been nothing less than outstaninding, from the dark brooding experimental TBYML & ITD? To the gloriously elated/ passionate majestic rock of Stories, & although I wouldn't recommend Demos as an intro, (id start with Stories & work back), for any longtime fan who is considering this.... DON'T LET IT SLIP BY! PJ at her feral best- im sure it will be an insp for many a musician down the track, others I can think of that f**k up the blues so uniquely- Captain Beefheart, Zappa, Waits etc. Its been said before, but she really is the undisputed queen of rock... I mean I just cant imagine PJ smashing up stage sets, pulling silly faces, or appearing in cunningly contrived outfits or videos, ala Strokes, Vines Stripes Peaches etc. Her music has never been hot on the trails of any new 'scene', & I feel that many current rock or 'alt' whatever acts, are more concerned with crafting a clever hybrid of styles to corner a piece of the market, as opposed to really expanding creatively on their influences & delivering a soul blistering experience. So it has taken Polly a while to win the acclaim she deserves, but I think that's a good thing.. her albums so far ensure a lasting impression. So, there you go- no gimmicks required - just raw bones blues action!!
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on 2 September 2010
In the PJ Harvey discography, '4-Track Demos' comes after the release of two studio LPs, Dry and Rid Of Me, in 1992 and 1993, but it was recorded right in the midst of the two, in 1991 and 1992, and before the release of the Steve Albini-produced 'Rid of Me.' Its release came about after Albini expressed his love of the demo recordings, the fact that there were several unreleased songs in the mix, and also because Harvey's trio had disbanded and she was trying to work out her next move.

As a stopgap, '4-Track Demos' makes for wonderful, insightful listening. It is by some distance the ugliest, most difficult, and least immediately attractive Harvey album - but that's its draw. It revels in its roughness and its rawness. After all, these are exactly what they say on the tin - rough, lo-fi four-track demo recordings, always planned to be built upon in the studio. Partly the reason why it's such an interesting artefact is because Albini's production on 'Rid of Me' added much distortion, and the songs were transformed with bass and drums overpowering Harvey's voice.

Here, it's just Harvey and her electric guitar, complete raw power, with occasional background vocals, handclaps, and subtle bursts of violin and harmonica. In this early state, it's clear that Harvey's writing had developed even from 'Dry.' These songs are perhaps the most intense and energetic of her career, all blistering riffs and unorthodox vocal styles. The songs are simple and rough, and therein lies their strange beauty. It's fun to spot the differences between these demos and the finished versions - "Ecstasy" feels more intimate, "Rid of Me" is at a much faster tempo, "50ft Queenie" is out-of-control psycho-drama even without the pulsating bass and drums - and it's also a joy to hear the unreleased songs from the period, highlights of which include the humorous "M-Bike," haunting "Driving" and "Hardly Wait," and the obscene and oppressive "Reeling."

As an introduction to PJ Harvey, it will either pique your interest and make you sit up and take notice of this unique talent or it will initially make you run a mile. It's a record that might take a while to love. It's not worlds away from 'Dry' or 'Rid of Me' by any stretch of the imagination, and the recording quality is far better than you might expect from a demos album, but it's not a glossy studio production. These are rough, raw home demos and, as such, arguably find PJ Harvey at her most natural and authentic.
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on 13 December 2000
I am not a huge fan of the artist and genre in question (I'm more of a Kate Bush/Tori Amos man), but forget all the (questionable) female 'rock' artists such as the whimsical Alanis Morrisette and the dull Sheryl Crow (yawn), Polly Jane Harvey is the undisputed Queen of Rock, and this album, a small work of genius. '4-Track Demos' is perhaps the most 'difficult' of her offerings, but also the most rewarding. The first few times I listened to it I was dissapointed as it lacked the gentle haunting quality of her recent work. However, the raw guitar sound which dominates the album, both belies and facilitates its complex thematic and deeply emotional content. '4-Track Demos' is the most immediate and integral albums I have ever listened to and is a must for any fans of contemporary rock music. Bliss.
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on 29 August 2002
4-track demos was probably about the 5th PJ album I bought. She never ceases to take me to a different place when listening to her music, this album was no exception. Having already heard tracks like Man-Sized, Hook and 50ft Queenie it was almost as if they had been stripped down to a purer state, giving a whole new perspective on them. Her voice sounds so vulnerable but at the same time so raw and overpowering, you just have to listen!!SHE IS THA MASTA!!!!!!!!!!!
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on 21 June 2012
Raw, uncompromising, an epic beginning to a phenomenal life in music. The power of these early works cannot be denied and they are a wonderful addition to any cd collection.
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on 10 August 2014
Awesome album. Great Rock'n'roll!
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on 11 March 2009
What a stunningly raw preformance. Every track is a winner. Excellent album for testing new hi-fi with. All you audiophiles should own a copy.
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