Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Harvey: Uh Huh Her
Posted: June 8,
PJ Harvey's last album, 2000's Mercury Music Prize-winning Stories
From the City, Stories From the Sea, tracked a transatlantic romance
from its euphoric beginning to its resigned, philosophically blasť end.
Uh Huh Her, her follow-up, is the dark-winged shrike to
Stories' glorious bird of paradise: it inverts its predecessor's
bright, clean production for a raw, stark sound, just as Harvey pulls
back Stories' effusive vocal delivery, twisting that album's
often exuberant emotional arc to more familiar territory: inward,
reflective and occasionally brooding.
That inner-directed bent is aptly reflected in Uh Huh Her's
dynamics: Although Harvey enlists Evelyn Isaac for backing vocals and
brings back Stories' mixer, the oddly monikered Head, this is
clearly a one-woman production. Save for the moody percussion provided
by longtime collaborator Rob Ellis, Harvey plays every instrument (from
crunchy guitar to delicate piano), eschewing intricate band dynamics in
favor of her strongest instrument -- her voice.
That approach makes for one of Harvey's most emotionally blunt
records to date. "The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth" finds her
lamenting a former lover's many faults ("Baby, I just think you're out
for what you can get / Your badmouth has killed off everything we had").
The yearning, wounded "Shame" finds her unable to shake a former lover's
hold over her, while "It's You" deals with a fatalistic infatuation
("When I'm not with you my dreams are so very dark / When I'm not with
you I dream of my hair falling out / When I'm not with you I walk dark
tunnels of my heart / When I'm not with you everything comes apart").
But Harvey wisely tempers the gloomy introspection with some welcome
pulse-quickening cuts. "The Letter" overflows with a sexually charged
potency ("Take the cap / Off your pen / Wet the envelope / Lick and lick
it"), colored by a near-manic sense of urgency ("Time is running out").
The spiky, disposable "Who The Fuck?," meanwhile, is a wire-edged kiss
off ("I'm not like other girls / You can't straighten my curls"). Harvey
also dabbles in a little pre-murder balladry with "The Pocket Knife," a
strikingly sketched look at an unwitting child bride who promises
bloodshed if she's forced to stand at the altar ("White material will
stain / My pocket knife's gotta shiny blade").
Harvey's usually keen sense of craft falters on occasions: "Cat on
the Wall" is a conventional sounding rock song saddled with subpar
lyrics ("Come night, I'm gonna step outside / Take a walk, I'm gonna
clear my mind"), while the percussively interesting "You Come Through"
is hamstrung by less than inspiring wordplay ("Come on my friend / Drink
to good times / Golden wishes / To your health and mine"). But if Uh
Huh Her doesn't rise to the level of Harvey's best work, it does
possess a grim, unvarnished beauty; a beauty that, while it might repel
a few of the fans she gained with Stories, capably rewards
devotees of her earlier, unburnished and uncompromising works.
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