Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Worth It In 2011: #18 - PJ Harvey

Here's my review of "The Words that Maketh Murder" from Singles Jukebox. This particular entry enjoyed some uncharacteristically (if entertainingly) pedantic comments concerning the grammatical agreement of the words "words" and "maketh". The Internet no longer cares. Ahem... like I said, my review:

It’s a stinky lump of something: brassy stomp, poker-faced background singers, autoharp interlude and deliberately unattractive voice. There’s some stuff here that annoys me, namely the King James “maketh” and the umpteen repetitions of Eddie Cochrane’s “United Nations” line. But after a while they simply become parts of the song’s indelible character, like undesirable traits in a person you otherwise enjoy spending time with. In this case, said person’s a veteran who talks about war in a manner so unadorned you can feel the heft of the bodies falling like lumps of meat, you can smell the flesh quivering in the heat, summertime blues adopting grisly implications. Our veteran is pretty jaunty about the whole experience, which may be a coping mechanism, or may just be the resignation borne of countless hours spent grappling with a series of life-altering visions. This song is uncannily close to certain conversations with a Vietnam vet friend of mine; I’ll bet he’s gonna love it.

PJ Harvey
Let England Shake

But "Words" is not the song I want to share! No, here's "Written on the Forehead", all lush and beautiful and sampling Niney the Observer, himself no stranger to Babylon songs:

And finally, the Sheep & Goats review of the album:
Harvey’s take on folk music is just as uncanny and death-obsessed as the old-timey stuff. “What is the glorious fruit of our land?” she asks — in a cadence that’ll stick in your head for days — only to offer up “deformed children” as a punchline. In Harvey’s vision, the pastoral English countryside is complicit in stuff like murder and war; it’s a stoic observer at best and a malevolent killer at worst, though Harvey’s certainly not one to judge. With versatile collaborators John Parish and Mick Harvey, she crafts music that’s deceptively simple, even artless. The rhythms are clunky, the mood loose, the tunes unexpected but ripe for singalong. The band creates sophisticated effects through simple means, like the dropped beats in the title track and the rippling guitar chords that open up whole vistas of emotion. In “Battleship Hill”, guitar-bass-drums-piano reveal all you need to know about the expansive beauty of the hill, the sweeping wind, and the narrator’s wistfulness. The song’s pastoral hook? “Cruel nature has won again.”

No comments: