PJ Harvey | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

PJ Harvey 

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The elements of PJ Harvey's second album, Rid of Me, are similar to those of the first, 1992's Dry: scabrous, highly dramatic song settings for leader Polly Harvey's utterly lacerating commentary on debilitating relations between mutually horrified, blood-engorged life-forms—what you or I would call boys and girls. Rid of me, produced—I'm sorry, "recorded"—by Steve Albini, is for the most part even sparer than the aptly titled Dry: the sound of each instrument is severely separated in the mix; instances of musical adornment rarely occur. This allows Harvey's breathless, howling voice to go where it will. Songwise, though, Rid of Me falls down a bit; when you're showing off such a stripped-down vehicle, there's gotta be some meat somewhere, and too many of the songs devolve into slogans: "Rub 'til it bleeds" is probably my favorite, but others ("Douse hair with gasoline") fall flat. And there's little sign of the two things that Harvey insists are her guiding lights: a respect for the blues and a sense of humor. You could make the argument that the uncompromising music mirrors the harrowing tales Harvey tells, but I call that a retreat, and too many groups sound like the Rollins Band already. Live, her thunderous threesome is extremely impressive, much of its force based on the bone-rattling chordage of bassist Steve Vaughn. Don't miss it. Gallon Drunk, Morrissey's favorite band till Suede came along, and Scrawl open. Thursday, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

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