Tuesday, June 1, 2010

405 Rid of Me. Another PJ party.

Album: Rid of Me
Artist: PJ Harvey.
Year: 1993
Genre: Rock.

Tracks

  1. Rid of Me
  2. Missed
  3. Legs
  4. Rub 'til It Bleeds
  5. Hook
  6. Man-Size Sextet
  7. Highway '61 Revisited
  8. 50ft Queenie
  9. Yuri-G
  10. Man-Size
  11. Dry
  12. Me-Jane
  13. Snake
  14. Ecstasy

Rid of me has to rate as the first real disappointment of my project so far. There weren't too many albums that I was eagerly awaiting that I hadn't heard already but this was one of them. I'd previously been ignorant of PJ Harvey and her work but was turned into something of a fan thanks to her earlier album To Bring you My Love which I reviewed a few albums back. I discussed at length how impressed I was with her ability to take the blues and turn it into something new, fresh and incredibly powerful. Imagine my delight then to discover that the Rolling Stone voters had chosen another of her albums which they considered deserved to be ranked 30 places higher than To Bring you My Love. I was expecting a superior album but I have to say I felt pretty let down.

Far and away the best thing on Rid of Me is actually a Bob Dylan cover. Not that I recognised it straight away. Highway 61 revisited starts of with totally unfamiliar instrumentation and it's not until the lyrics become clear that I could identify what it was she was singing. I love it when someone really reinvents a Bob song (Dylan does it himself when he sings live). You can start listening to Bob Dylan covers today and spend the rest of your life doing so because by the time you've caught up with all the ones released up to this point more than enough will have been recorded to take you to your death. In amongst the million or so acoustic renditions of Blowin in the Wind which bring nothing to the table it's worth dedicating some time to PJ Harvey's version of Highway 61.

While the album itself didn't move me much I took the time to hunt around for some live versions of the two singles (Man Size and Rid of me) to see what they could do for me. The versions PJ performs with a band left me as ambivilent as the album tracks but I did find a few versions of each which she sings accompanied only by her own guitar. When she's on her own without a band to fall back on she's frankly mesmerising. She resists the easy road of using an acoustic guitar and toning down the punk aspects to turn her songs into gentle ballads. Instead she fronts up to an audience with an electric guitar and punk attitude. She has real stage presence and a fantastic ability to subvert images. She sounds like she should be performing in ripped jeans and a Clash T-shirt but she takes the stage with a impeccable hair and makeup and the sort of outfit that suggests she's dressed for a red carpet function rather than a rock show. Rid of me and Man Size are both so much better live and worth checking out.

Highlight: Highway 61 revisited
Lowlight: Dry

Influenced by: Dylan and punk
Influenced: Lots of girls who rock.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "NOTE: Whether you agree with my assessment of this record or not, people who really seem to like this record also seem to like her new record ("Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea") but not 1995's "To Bring You My Love" or 1998's "Is This Desire", both of which represent far-better productions by Flood. Depending on where you are on the P.J. Harvey fan spectrum, beware. "

-ooh that's interesting. There's a PJ Harvey fan spectrum. Since I really liked To Bring you My Love I might check out Is This Desire as well. Thanks Amazon!

So do you have a man-size love for PJ or would you rather be rid of her? Let me know below.

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