Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PJ Harvey and John Parish's "A woman a man walked by"

Let me give some context for what I’m about to say about PJ Harvey and John Parish’s new album, “A Woman a Man Walked by”…

I am a PJ Harvey obsessive. Her last CD, ‘White Chalk’ easily made the top of my best albums list for 2007. It was the kind of record which made me want to go and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a piano (which I can’t play) and spend the next year trying to write even a single line a haunting as those she had put down. The list of great work from PJ Harvey doesn’t end there. Who can forget albums like “Is this desire?,” with its vicious industrial scrawl, or the exquisite “Songs from the City, Songs from the Sea.” Just in case I haven’t made my point, perhaps I can introduce my cats: tabby female “Polly Jean” and long haired ginger female “Harvey.” Yes, when I fixate…

So it’s a sad day when I come to “A Woman a Man Walked by” and have to admit that it has some serious problems. There are some dubious lyrical choices. The lyrics to “April” seem surprisingly prosaic, for example. “Pig Will Not” ends with Harvey shouting “I will not” again and again, and makes you wonder if she really has anything to say this time around.

There are still some great, moving, tracks, like “Passionless, Pointless” and “Leaving California,” but the overall album is very uneven. I’m a little more bitter at this because the single, “Black Hearted Love” is deceptively like an excellent track from “Songs from the City…,” so it raised my hopes that this might be the best new release of the year from an established act. That accolade still goes to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs right now (perhaps until Maximo Park next month?). Meanwhile I’m sad to say Harvey needs to rethink things a little, if she’s to produce the great new music I know she is still capable of.

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