Soundchecks Music Reviews

Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Island 8099/548 145-2

STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM SEA
P.J. Harvey

review by Tony Lee

This won Polly Jean Harvey the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in September 2003 - a remarkable and historic achievement because she's the first female artiste ever to win, beating other nominees like Radiohead, Super Furry Animals, etc. Such acclaim is well deserved, however, as the scope of music styles and sensibilities presented here is even more eclectic and satisfying than Harvey's previous works, confirming her cult status as the 'ultimate rock chick.'

Although most of the tracks on Stories... avoid the darker 'songs for satanists' appeal of earlier album, To Bring You My Love (1995), this is clear evidence of Harvey's deeper maturity and marked growth as singer, songwriter, and musician. While not abandoning heavier sounds - as in The Whores Hustle And The Hustlers Whore and Kamikaze, now the lusty Long Snake Moan (from TBYML) has become the romanticism of You Said Something. I'm not suggesting that Stories... lacks energy or passion. Quite the opposite is true. Harvey's diverse compositions extend to charitable tracks like Good Fortune, the evocative minimalism of Beautiful Feeling (not unlike Laurie Anderson), and the opening cut, Big Exit, which enthusiastically reinvents crusty old protest song clichés.

Positively moral without being preachy, now more thoughtful than blatantly provocative, Harvey nevertheless champions an engagingly gritty, full-on mode of high quality rock, instead of the tamed and over-polished stuff that seeps out of the USA. And yet she maintains a distinctively transatlantic appeal with candid lyrics centered on a Briton's impressions of American modernity.


Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press