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PJ Harvey and John Parish - A Woman a Man Walked By (Cover Artwork)

PJ Harvey and John Parish

PJ Harvey and John Parish: A Woman a Man Walked ByA Woman a Man Walked By (2009)
Island Records

Reviewer Rating: 4


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Retreads have never been Polly Jean Harvey's thing. None of her albums sound alike; each offers its own beguiling charm and haunting beauty. Her discography's lone rehash, 2004's Uh-Huh Her, attempted to recycle the bluesy guitar dirges and wounded feminine snarl of early works Dry and Rid of Me, an.
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Retreads have never been Polly Jean Harvey's thing. None of her albums sound alike; each offers its own beguiling charm and haunting beauty. Her discography's lone rehash, 2004's Uh-Huh Her, attempted to recycle the bluesy guitar dirges and wounded feminine snarl of early works Dry and Rid of Me, and it kind of sucked. We all pretended otherwise at the time, but it's easily the weakest release in her healthy catalog. 2007's White Chalk marked a new direction for Harvey -- still lovelorn and haunting, but piano-based. It was beautiful. 2009 brings another new highlight for Harvey, and her quickest turnaround yet this decade: A stylistic repeat that's actually awesome.

A Woman a Man Walked By finds Harvey again teaming up with John Parish, who co-wrote 1996's Dance Hall at Louse Point and produced and played on White Chalk. Its quietest moments, like "Leaving California" or "Cracks in the Canvas," recall White Chalk's torment and ambience. As for the rockers, like lead-off "Black Hearted Love" or "Pig Will Not," well, they're loud and surreal and psychedelic. Harvey hasn't cut loose electric howls like these in 15 years. It's a welcome return.

The album gets the whole "accessibility" thing over with up front with "Black Hearted Love." It's a solid blend of everything to come -- the choruses rock and shriek while the verses float by. Harvey's voice is given more room to flex than on White Chalk, where it was always high-pitched and restrained. Here, she's shouting. And Parish shreds the whole dang time. "Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen" is an acoustic barn-burner -- think To Bring You My Love's "Send His Love to Me." From track three onward, though, the record starts to test the listener. The songs become less catchy or pop-oriented, but they're certainly memorable.

Harvey pushes her register on "Leaving California" and "April," and her unconventional delivery warps the songs a bit. Parish keeps the music slow and understated. It's too discordant to be soft, too soft to be truly discordant. The record's second half pushes the album further by upping the musicianship and impressionistic lyrics. The tranny-toting title track has more weird delivery from Harvey coupled with funny lyrics -- the way she grunts lines like "I want your fucking ass" is artful yet completely silly. It's a refreshing dash of surrealism after White Chalk's downer-thon.

White Chalk stills hovers over A Woman a Man Walked By, however. "The Soldier" examines a dream in which the narrator yearns to share his/her suffering -- "Send me home damaged / Send me home disposed / Send me home damaged and wanting" goes the climax. "Passionless, Pointless" covers a failing relationship, and the sparse imagery that emerges hits hard. The intro is all about trying to cut through tensions and talking, but the line that ultimately sticks the most is "I slept facing the wall," later changed to "you." Breaking up the two is "Pig Will Not," a chaotic crasher in which Harvey moans and groans and lurches about possessed and Parish places searing guitar/thundering drums side-by-side with plaintive piano lines.

A Woman a Man Walked By's ebb and flow keeps the listener recovering from each previous track. It constantly circumvents PJ fans' expectations by both embracing and rejecting templates established by White Chalk and Dance Hall at Louse Point. It's self-lacerating yet giddy, fiery yet contemplative, fluctuating from moment to moment. Parish's compositions are solid throughout, although the sparse first half can get tedious at times. Still, though, he's clearly a great force for Harvey to play against. Harvey struggled to find new creative directions for most of this decade, but her last two Parish team-ups have been fantastic. She's the sort of artist who needs to constantly shift -- like a Bowie. And like a Bowie, she just might bring her best out when those around her do the same.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
joeg (April 27, 2009)

...You're like so progressive

So that would make you like so regressive!

Chadreligion (April 27, 2009)

Love this woman! To Bring You My Love has to be her best album. I even liked the last release ,even though it was a little stripped down. I have not heard this record, but it is on my list.

For those of you that have never seen her, here is this.. it fucking awesome!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70IEILNxswY

damo (April 27, 2009)

i understand but i'll agree to disagree

xshoutoutx (April 27, 2009)

"PJ Harvey fits my very definition of punk, moreso than a lot of bands on this site."

...You're like so progressive!

joeg (April 27, 2009)

PJ Harvey fits my very definition of punk, moreso than a lot of bands on this site.

borntaloze (April 27, 2009)

break out the punk rulebooks!

a lot of people that like harvey like punk and a lot of them dont. so some of you are saying this album doesnt deserve to be reviewed here because of her non-punky following?

i like punk. i like pj. i like this album.

incidentally i did not like uh huh her. like the reviewer i think it's her weakest by far. rid of me being her best.

ngs091 (April 27, 2009)

I don't mean to sound differential; but hey, that's the point of punk rock: say it loud and proud! Right?

ngs091 (April 27, 2009)

Alot of supposed "Punk" bands in fact are not as punk as they seem, or at least, get influence from other sub-genres in rock, and even completly seperate genres entirely.

PJ Harvey may not always be punk, but she does have a foot in the scene. I am not saying she's a type of Sid Vicious punker, but Punk rock spans a wide array of styles. It is an art form.

Besides, that link I posted of PJ Harvey is more punk than a few bands that I can name that are often covered on this website.

Do note, that's not a bash on this website, more than a statement to the spectrum that punk does reach.

xshoutoutx (April 26, 2009)

excuse me... you did not posit her being "punk," but still... go fuck yourself. You and your hipster loving cronies!

xshoutoutx (April 26, 2009)

Dear Jelone:

I am guessing I am the "brooklyn kid" you are responding to. You telling me not to preach (which I did not) completely negates everything you said through preaching to me.

So basically... go fuck yourself.

PJ Harvey's past is completely irrelevant to what she is producing now. This is no where near "punkish" as you posited.

damo (April 26, 2009)

"In all seriousness, though: May multi-genres of music open up your mind, to let other forms of expression open up your soul."

you may be right, but i'd rather eat my own shit :)

damo (April 26, 2009)

ngs091 - thanks for the update on her past but i don't see why a review of her should be here. i remember her from 12 years ago doing random prog rock so i it grates on me

also, do we review Pink records just cos tim arsestrong wrote a song for her?

ngs091 (April 26, 2009)

If anyone wants it; here's the myspace link to that entire 2nd-Steve Albini Produced album.

http://music.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=music.art istalbums&artistid=2856672&albumid=6393

ngs091 (April 26, 2009)

The intelligence of some of you never ceases to amaze me. Joking. Actually, I mean the illiteracy, and the non-knowledge of alleged non- punk rock bands.

In fact,

The knowledgeable one would know that PJ Harvey has had some punk albums to her name, indeed.

At least her first two albums were both fucking amazing and were punky. Dry is the first one; while Rid of Me is the second one, and that one is actually produced by noise-hero Steve Albini.

Either way, Harvey is comparable to that other little punk artist-- Patti Smith--maybe youâ??ve heard of her, or not, lol.

In all seriousness, though: May multi-genres of music open up your mind, to let other forms of expression open up your soul.

eazyd2 (April 25, 2009)

so gay. i fuckin hate this ugly bitch

24hourpriapism (April 25, 2009)

i'm with the pro-pj harvey camp. one of the best female voices in rock. actually, one of the best voices, period. regardless of gender.

damo (April 25, 2009)

what the fuck is pj harvey doing on this site?

ffs

Jelone (April 25, 2009)

Joeg - I can't believe she's doing a national U.S. tour. WANT.

Brooklyn Kid - Don't be so didactic. Why do you hate women so much, Brooklyn Kid?

joeg (April 24, 2009)

nice review. completely stoked on this and on finally getting to see her for the first time.

aorta (April 24, 2009)

Uh Huh Her did not suck. It was awesome.

xshoutoutx (April 24, 2009)

Dear Punknews:

...THIS IS NOT PITCHFORK!

Go fuck yourself!

sleepwalker (April 24, 2009)

Dear PJ Harvey,

I love you. Don't ever change. Or do, I don't care. I love you so much.

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