PJ Harvey | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

PJ Harvey 

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PJ Harvey's third studio album, To Bring You My Love, from its grandiloquent title on down to its nerve-twitching songs, sees its creator atop a secure peak. The howls of the first album and the sardonicism of the second under control, her stated penchants for rude humor and the blues flow here with unchallengeable force. The blues, particularly, seep out of the album's pores, from the growled vocal litanies and crawling bass to the abrasively carnal expostulations that give the album its thrills and chills. Her big battle now is her discomfort with how her gender is perceived through her art. Somewhat appalled by the readings of the pretty straightforward femme-ocentric essays on her caustic first album, Dry, she went vague on the follow-up, with to my mind inconclusive results. Now with a great deal of violence and no little aplomb she settles the issue through wholesale appropriation of male terminology. The audacity of this move is limited by certain musical touches—bits of underground foofaraw like distorted vocal tracks seem almost petty in this context—but it's otherwise accentuated by the deliberate and unindulgent ferocity of her impressive sidemen. On one level what results is an album-length genderfuck of no little punch—lines like "You oughtta hear my long snake moan" are designed with that in mind. But such classifications may ultimately demean a move of classic rock 'n' roll chutzpah: the intent seems less to convert nonbelievers than simply to clear territory. And the austerity of her delivery makes it clear: she's not doing it for her gender, she's doing it for herself. Tricky opens; the show's sold out. Saturday, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 472-0449.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Valerie Phillips.

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