Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is Polly Jean Harvey‘s sixth album. It’s incendiary.
It would matter not one jot if The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey hadn’t been on hand with his instruments, if Flood hadn’t offered advice on production or if Thom Yorke hadn’t offered his uniquely fragile vocals for not one but two tracks – PJ shines through on every song. From the raw, anthemic Big Exit to the beautiful duet with Yorke, The Mess We’re In.
Already nominated for two Mercury awards, PJ has also duetted with Nick Cave on his Murder Ballad, Henry Lee.
But in her own right, as anyone who has ever heard her music must surely testify, she has a huge talent for writing catchy songs based on guitar which feature more hooks than a drift net and, since she first started out, she has perfected her craft to the point where every one of her tracks here are punchy, focused and, bizarrely for her, life-affirming to the point of cheery. She seems happy these days – and well she should be.
One Line is perhaps the overlooked track here, for it initially sounds so basic, just vocals and rhythm guitar, but then the drums – which stomp about all over this album – and backing vocals kick in to quite ethereal effect.</P.
The Whores Hustle and The Hustlers Whore makes excellent use of a delay pedal to create edgy atmospherics before she goes off shrieking a la Diamanda Galas (okay, not that much…) at the end.
This Mess We’re In offers Thom Yorke two verses to do his thing in before he comes on all falsetto above Polly’s murmuring. You Said Something gets into the sort of territory you can imagine Alanis Morissette fantacising about being able to reach.
This is an inventive, tuneful, addictive and rather excellent record. Go buy.