Friday, June 24, 2005

Hit the promised land

If there are any sacred cows here at SYF (and who are we kidding; there are many), top of the list is one Polly Jean. For some people over at the right there, she's at the top of the crap heap (I may have even heard the word "pretentious" bandied about in a conversation or two) while others pour over their microdrives full of B-sides and swiped shows for an accidental money note.

Me, given, my god, a ten year history with the lady, I can't feel quite comfortable in either camp.

I saw PJ Harvey at Metro touring Rid Of Me and it was a jaw-dropping show. As the lights went up, there was a tiny sparkly lady on stage with huge sunglasses just beginning to crack a huge shit-eating grin. My impression at the time, which I suppose I have been disabused of, was that the costume was a wink with us, rather than for us or at us, a sort of silly flirtation with star power that honored the audience rather than instructed. But, in any case, twenty seconds later, costumes were the last thing on anyone's mind, as there was rock-bringing afoot and she did so impressively and forcefully. You get scarred by a concert like that, so much so that you're forever interested in what the artist does, even if what you witness becomes performance art, then bad performance art, and perhaps even utter garbage.

Polly has cranked out some serious poop. It's possible I'm missing something, but to my ear there is little to excuse her latest, "stripped down" Uh Huh Her. For a songwriter with her talent still obviously at the top of her game, it's just odd that minimalism didn't force distillation rather than mere reduction. As much as I believe that PJ has the goods, there has been too much perceived manipulation of perception, too much production of image, too little there there since To Bring You My Love. It's not that I need Polly to rock, but I want to see her do something with the conviction I witnessed at the Metro.

Collaborations with Josh Homme didn't produce anything interesting (except some spectacularly bad acting) but I am very happy to report (very late I know) that another Queen of the Stone Age and former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan got Polly Jean to get after it on Hit The City (mp3) from Bubblegum. The track itself is worth a listen for all of you who'd given up hope and the album itself is an heir to the stoner-rock Roxy Music concept that was introduced on Rated R. I'm not sure if it's because she's in the background or if it's the material itself, an attachment to Lanegan or the um, throb of the thing, but the sound of the voice, finally, again, matches the memory.


Blogger Amy said...

You know how I feel about Harvey, Jon. Don't get her, probably never will. (I think I may have even seen Miss Polly Jean with you at the Vic one time.) But I've always liked Lanegan's voice and think Hit The City's a pretty cool tune. Nice to have ya at SYF, kiddo.

1:30 PM  

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