As an obsessive fan of PJ Harvey, a new album is always a source of much joy for me, but I often find that they are growers Im seldom very sure on the first listen, but with time, I come to love them. This has happened with most of her albums, the two exceptions being Rid of Me and Is this Desire?, neither of which I have ever been able to love wholeheartedly.
After the powerhouse that was her last album, Uh Huh Her felt a little bit anticlimactic first time around. In response to the supposed over-commercialism of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, this latest effort is much more stripped back not necessarily more quiet (songs like Who the F**k continue PJs love affair with loud, crunchy guitar), but maybe less polished, less attentive to each track as a unit. Its hard to describe, but you have to approach the album as a whole rather than the individual songs. I say this in full knowledge that there have been three singles from this album, but I think two of those (Shame and You Come Through) strengthen my point theyre more nuggets of songs than tracks in themselves. In any case, PJ singles are all about the B-sides.
The question I usually ask myself about albums by artists I love, is whether I would give this album to someone as an introduction I wouldnt give them any of Nick Caves last five albums, although theres plenty of things I like about them. Ive always enjoyed PJ Harveys versatility, her ability to surprise me with an unpredictable twist that makes each of her albums unique. I think this album is remarkable for how unpolished it looks, compared to more recent efforts. While sometimes its a bit frustrating that good sounds seem to lead nowhere (like in You Come Through), this is also one of the albums endearing qualities. Nothing is stretched beyond its limits here, and nearly every track is a good one, whatever its length (still dont like Who the F**k, although it was great live).
Would I recommend this to a newcomer? Probably, but Id recommend others more quickly. Not her finest album, but great in places, and always interesting. At the very least, she will never bore you.