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!!