More Hustle than Whore
The result of this is that now I have my car back the only CDs as yet available are those in the little rack thing hooked round the driver's sun visor, which I had forgotten all about. And the only thing worth listening to in there (even though I put every CD there at some point) is PJ Harvey's album 'Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea', which I had always dismissed as being a bit too straight up and down rocky to be a good PJH LP.
However, given the choice of listening to 'not at her best' PJ Harvey or, to take a random example of the other CDs available, a Graham Nash live bootleg from 1993, well I've had PJH on the car CD player pretty much constantly for the past week or so.
And it's a truly great album - possibly her very best which really is saying something. From the exultant semi-shout "I'm immortal when I'm with you" in album opener 'Big Exit' to the haunting refrain on the second from last track, 'We Float' ("We float/Take life as it comes"), this is a confident album from an artist at the top of her game.
Where once she asked 'Is this Desire?', now she states 'This is Love'. Which is a pointer to the fact that this is a much happier album than we're used to from Polly Jean. Not that it's exactly the Crazy Frog tune or anything, but it's a long way from 'Plants and Rags' on her first album ("Plants and rags/Ease myself into a bodybag") to this album's 'Beautiful Feeling' ("A smile from San Diego/He's still a boy/Two ends to every rainbow/And a train from Mexico"). 'Good Fortune' and 'Beautiful Feeling' continue the positive vibe and even the Thom Yorke duet, 'This Mess we're In", manages to be less than morose (although not a patch on Yorke's earlier duets with Drugstore or Bjork).
For old time fans, the spiky guitar and the confrontation is still there, though - any album with a track called 'The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore' isn't likely to crack the core pre-teen market - but there's a happiness behind it which too often seemed missing in her earlier work. Even the tracks which ostensibly sound like they could be expected to be on the negative or sleazy side often turn out to carry you along on an upbeat guitar line or an unexpected Polly Jean wail (see especially the ending of 'the Whores Hustle' for a wonderful example of Ms Harvey's Yma Sumac-like vocals).
And then, just when you think that the old evil Polly is gone, along comes 'This Wicked Tongue Says', a barely produced burst of pure invective, as Polly curses everyone over almost, but not quite, out of control guitar. This is a track that could fit onto 'Dry' without a problem.
Stand out track for me in an album full of potentials, though, is 'Kamikaze', which is so good that I'm banned from playing it in the car when there's anyone else present, lest I take my hands off the wheel to play the drum rolls on the steering wheel and end up involved in a road traffic incident.
Which is where we came in...