PJ Harvey's visceral and passionate rock

PJ Harvey's visceral and passionate rock

Twenty years ago, on May 31, 2004, PJ Harvey released his sixth studio album “Uh Huh Her”. We celebrate the anniversary by republishing the review of the album that we wrote at that time.

A friend, talking about PJ Harvey, supported a funny but sensible theory: he is an artist who makes even and odd records. That is, she alternates more regular and accessible records with deliberately more experimental and difficult records. It matters little if the conceptually “even” albums are the first, third and fifth, and the “odd” ones are the second, fourth and sixth work, “Uh huh her”.
The first category includes the debut “Dry”, “To bring you my love” and the acclaimed “Stories from the city, stories from the sea” – released almost four years ago and certainly the best and most direct work of the Rockeuse. In the second category the records with which our company reacted to the success of those just mentioned: “Dry” was followed by “Rid of me”, “To bring you my love” “Is this desire” and “Stories from the city, stories from the sea” this “Uh huh her”.

Records, in fact, deliberately more lopsided: almost as if PJ, as a true independent artist, did not want to capitalize on the success achieved, but wanted to demonstrate that she knew how to choose the most difficult path. In the detail of this work, it would have been easy to continue along the path of “Stories”: a record with crystalline guitars, direct melodies, and a linear narrative. In short, one of the best rock albums of the last ten years. Instead.

Instead PJ let almost four years pass. You chose a deliberately meaningless title for this album, to contrast the excessively narrative one of the previous album. He wrote angry songs. And she did it all herself: production, recording, mixing, and played practically all the instruments, except drums and percussion (by Rob Ellis). In other words: “Uh huh her” is a record of demos elevated to the level of finished products, as she herself revealed to us in our interview: why re-record songs that already sounded so good? And, mind you, that's not a bad thing: the songs are dry, direct, in some cases violent (like “Who the fuck?”). In other cases dark, like the final ballads. But never ugly or inappropriate. In short, you don't feel that they are demos. Because in the end “Uh huh her” is a rougher and less refined record than “Stories”, but it still took advantage of that experience. And it is still a visceral and passionate rock record.

This is the root of PJ Harvey's music, it's always there, and you just see it more here than anywhere else. Then, of course, it can be said that PJ deliberately shuns her success, that if she had made another album like “Stories” she would have become Really the “new Patti Smith” (a label that has been attached to her since the beginning). But, in the end, these are conjectures, and what matters is the music. And that always works on PJ Harvey records. So there is little to discuss and a lot to listen to.