Archive for PJ Harvey

43. ‘Shame’ by PJ Harvey (2004)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 6, 2010 by G.K. Reid

One of my guiding principles in compiling this list was to separate great singles from great album-tracks-that-just-happened-to be-released.  If a song derives a lot of its greatness from its album context, then it was likely to lose out to those which strut their stuff on their own two legs. So, I kind of screwed up here. ‘Shame’ can’t really be argued as a stronger single than previous entry ‘Good Fortune’ – or, indeed, ‘This is Love’, which failed to even make the cut. Go figure.

Having said that, neither of those tracks lingers with me the way this one does.  ‘Shame’ actively muffles its immediacy.  The sharp percussive gallop that kicks the song into shuffly life barely changes gear, and is further tempered by a plaintive harmonica and a yearning, nerve-baring vocal (of course!).  It’s low-key and self-effacing; a fluid little lament that could slip you by unnoticed or, alternatively, ingratiate itself deep into the recesses of your imagination.

It’s also, typically of Peej, an exquisite evocation of the song’s thematic concerns. And what are those concerns? Well, the irrationality of human emotion.  The grief of loss. The embarrassment of needing someone. The precipitously thin line between fervent desire and abject loneliness. In short, pretty much everything that’s ever propelled PJ Harvey into making music.


Bonus points: ‘Shame is the shadow of love’, the chorus sadly, submissively observes.  She’s never before put it quite so succinctly.


65. ‘Good Fortune’ by PJ Harvey (2000)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 22, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Lick my legs, I’m on fire.

So, yeah, let’s get all hipster for a moment. I looooooove PJ Harvey. (Dammit, that’s way too enthusiastic to be hip, I fell at the first hurdle). But, yeah, the consensus from anyone worth their salt – perhaps quite rightly – is that  ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’ isn’t ACTUALLY her BEST. ALBUM. EVER. The success and acclaim this album garnered is a sore point for a lot of Peej fans, if only because the same levels of hyperbole should have been afforded everything she’s EVER done. But Peej is one of those artist that attracts hard-core, crazy-ass fans (I should know, I’m one of them) and when she releases an album as relatively “mainstream” as this one, it’s only ever bound to annoy some of those same said fans.

Me, I love this album. I don’t love it as intensely as I love all her previous output (bar Is This Desire?, which remains for me her weakest effort) but part of this album’s greatness is it’s lack of similarity to all that’s gone before it. The traces of the PJ Harvey trademarks – sexual anxiety and desire in not-quite-equal measure; the fierceness qualified by self-doubt; the robust, flat-out AMAZING voice – are still present, but they’re attached to a noticeably different philosophy.

It’s not clear if she’ll ever recapture the same positivity that she expresses here (her subsequent albums certainly suggest she ran away from it with her tail between her legs) but part of this song’s magic is that she is acutely aware of how reckless such positivity is, but is throwing caution to the wind regardless. This is the sound of a woman in love, in an unfamiliar place, and desperately wanting to release herself from her own doubts.

Bonus points: Really, eveything I’ve inadequately tried to express above is blown to smithereens by the way Peej repeats the last syllables of every line in the verses. ‘And I was really in lo-o-o-ove’…