PJ Harvey & John Parish: A Woman A Man Walked By

Working with habitual collaborator John Parish, Polly Jean abandons the edgy piano focused vibe of her last solo album “White Chalk” (incidentally produced by John Parish), in favour of a return to 90’s grunge and guttural folk rock.

Anyone bought up on an insipid sugary musical diet of Take That and James Blunt will most probably find this album a little harsh, with its pointed musical edges and unforgiving lyrics. Those with more encompassing musical tastes will recognise sparks of genius.

Album opener “Black Hearted Love” is a powerful and brutal song with a dominant rhythm guitar over gnashing and scraping electric guitars lurking in the background. A beautiful elegance lies beneath this perfect piece of Nirvana-esque grunge pop.

“Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen” has a more folky rhythm with distinct PJ vocals producing a track reminiscent of 2000’s seminal “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”.

"Leaving California" is delivered in a pitch that is likely to shatter any unrestrained wine glasses in the vicinity of your tweeters. Meanwhile, John tinkers away with guitars and gizmo’s to provide a weird Radiohead style backdrop.

The title track sounds like a feminine Grinderman that starts with gentle acoustic strumming and ranting lyrics before descending into a Beavis and Butthead snigger, more intense guitars and a chorus enabling her to repeatedly growl “I want his fuckin ass”. There is no parental advisory sticker adorning the album cover, but I guess that’s just because her natural audience are more mature anyway.

“Pig Will Not” is a raw sounding sonic attack featuring an angry Polly barking “woof, woof” at us.

The wife thinks it’s all just a terrible din, I think it’s an engrossing joyous noise.

Incidentally Amazon delivered the album on Saturday, 2 days prior to the official release date (30th March 2009). Hence I got the weekend to review it and was able to post this review on the release date. You lucky people.