Friday, September 21, 2007

When Under Ether

Song: When Under Ether
Artist: PJ Harvey
Album: White Chalk

I’ve been a fan of PJ Harvey since her debut album “Dry” came out in 1993. Her brash and semi off-the-wall blend of punk rock and grand balladry was a perfect counterpart to Hole’s brand of female (and American) wail and rock. Harvey’s eighth studio album, “White Chalk” is scheduled for release next week and comes after 2004’s “Uh Huh Her.”

I really disliked “Uh Huh Her,” especially after the career peak that was 2000’s “Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.” While “Uh Huh Her,” like most of her work, was pretty universally praised, I thought it was a mess… especially after the concise and punchy “Stories.” But an artist like Harvey needs to do her thing, and she has specifically said she never has NO plans to release the same album twice, which I respect. True to that, “White Chalk” is another departure… with the songs totally piano based, vs. the guitar lead rock she’s been doing since she started. Because of this, and the fact that it is Harvey, “Chalk” is a very moody and very strange record, with deliberately off-key moan-singing that if nothing but, sets a mood.

First single “When Under Ether” is a good example of what you get from the album, though this is one of the more catchy of the album tracks. While this is once again different from what she’s done in the past I immediately liked it better than “Uh Huh Her.” It is more pointed and cleaner, and while a departure, it is vintage Harvey. This isn’t the type of record that is going to get her new fans, as I think it is way too strange… even for her. But as a mood piece it is ace, and her songwriting abilities are evident here… she’s back to form even with this shift in approach.


Here she is performing album closer “The Mountain” in 2006:

The “her in a studio” video for “When Under Ether”

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