Monday, 22nd January 2018. 5:33:43am ET


Artist: PJ Harvey
CD Title: Uh Huh Her
Label: Island
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 9/18/04

After a brief hiatus following the critically acclaimed Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and an opening spot on U2's Elevation tour, Polly Jean Harvey has once again returned in a way that only she could with Uh Huh Her. In some ways, Uh Huh Her is the antithesis of the more polished studio rock of Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. In other ways, this confrontational, purposefully lo-fi, stripped down effort is something of a return to Harvey's earlier work. Simple rhythmic guitars, unpolished organic recordings (some of which may have been taken from 4-track, complete with tape hiss), angst and beauty…the elements are all here for something more akin to Rid of Me but also containing overriding shades of Dry and To Bring You My Love.

At only a little over 41 minutes, most of the album's 14 tracks fall into the brief and to-the-point 2-3 minute range. PJ even threw in a couple short instrumental interludes, although the minute of ocean and seagull noise that makes up the disc's apparently untitled 13th track is both baffling and seemingly unnecessary. The crunchy rhythmic guitar and simple pounding drums of the opening "The Life & Death of Mr. Badmouth" provide a brilliant introduction to the album, and the lovely "Shame" is certainly a worthy follow-up. "Who the Fuck" finds an angst-ridden Harvey singing "I'm not like other girls, you can't straighten my curls", while "Pocket Knife" is a simple laid back number with great percussion. The album's lead single, The Letter is something of a bizarre rock track based on a distorted guitar riff, countered by the lo-fi electronics and pizzicato strings of the lovely "The Slow Drug".

Perhaps the album's most disappointing moment comes in the form of "No Child of Mine", not because it's a bad song, but because it's a beautiful one that only exists in an abbreviated one minute incarnation. "Cat on the Wall" is a dark rocker with loud, crunchy guitars filled out by flute or recorder, while "You Come Through" is an exquisitely beautiful track based around an echoing xylophone melody. "It's You" is a great tracked based around a distorted low-end groove and followed by the short instrumental "The End" and the mellow lo-fi acoustic guitar and vocal number "The Desperate Kingdom of Love". The album closing "The Darker Days of Me & Him" blends trip-hop drums and sampling with mellow acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals for an incredibly lovely, emotional finale.

On a side note, many of the b-sides found on new singles, including "Bows & Arrows", "The Phone Song", and "Stone" are better than much of the material found on the album. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that the first two are, perhaps, the best tracks released from the sessions. Their exclusion from the album is a bit mysterious and disappointing, especially since they'd probably fit in perfectly stylistically. Still, even with their absence, it's a more or less flawless set save for the previously mentioned inane minute of squawking seagulls.

In the end, Uh Huh Her isn't exactly PJ's most accessible album, but it's miles away from inaccessible and is one of her better outings. Fans of polished rock and pop may find her work a bit challenging, but it's certainly rewarding and brilliant. While Uh Huh Her doesn't top PJ's spectacular To Bring You My Love, it's easily the best thing she's done since and, quite possibly, the best album I've heard so far this year.


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