PJ Harvey Uh Huh Her Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

It's sad to say it, but Polly's (frankly awe-inspiring) musical ability does seem to...

Kate Lawrence 2004

The much anticipated return from the godmother of rock could have gone either way. The hugely successful previous album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea was considered almost accessible compared to her previous offerings. This consequently brought her legions of new fans and the ultimate coffee table accolade, a Mercury Music Prize.

So the question is, would she continue down the road of slickness or would we see get to see some of those exposed nerves once again?

The answer is both. There is a thin layer of grubbiness on Uh Huh Her which will secretly delight fans who were perhaps disappointed by the professional gloss of Stories... But this album certainly isn't as raw as Dry or Rid of Me. It would appear that the vitriolic rant, a recurring theme in her earlier albums, isn't one she's about to return to. The closest we get is "Who the F***?" - a vicious diatribe against (wait for it) her hairdresser. This is sung with such consummate glee that it positively sticks a tongue out at the younger Polly who, I expect, didn't even have a hairdresser.

First single "The Letter" and opener, "The Life and Death of Mr Badmouth" are basically missing tracks from Stories. However, Polly is still experimenting with musical styles, particularly with a number of wonderfully subtle lo-fi tracks towards the end of the album.

It's sad to say it, but Polly's (frankly awe-inspiring) musical ability does seem to impress all the more when it's tinged with melancholy.

"You Come Through" and "Seagulls" are beautifully understated in a way that wouldn't usually be associated with Harvey's dark, brooding blues. "The Slow Drug" with its electronic, hypnotic feeling of impending doom is made more disturbing by the fact that this doom never materialises and the song simply fades out.

There are now many artists who are so obviously influenced by Harvey (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills to name just two), that it's easy to forget how groundbreaking Polly has been. This album still isn't as stark or challenging as her early material, but her own personal musical development is still very much ahead of its time.

She remains a vital force to be reckoned with.

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