Good Music/Shite Music
The other day I arrived at my boss, Marcus’s workshop to discover that he was listening to music by Gaelic rockers ‘The Cranberries.’ He was listening to the album ‘Trying to take a shit in the desert while a giant eye watches’
I never cared for The Cranberries; ever since I caught myself thinking: “If you took Mrs Doyle from Father Ted and spliced her genes with those of an angry goose, you’d get the voice of Dolores Cranberry” That was it, the track ‘Zombie’ was enough for me to vow never to want to hear an Irish woman have an orgasm.
Still, it makes Marcus happy so who am I to point the finger and say “Marcus me fella, you’re listening to a roight load of old shite”. Meat & Poison I suppose; he never exactly glows with enthusiasm when I play my tunes.
Talking of which; I’d been walking along and listening/loving/discovering all over again “Is this desire’ by PJ Harvey.
One gets the impression that the majority of the tracks were written in a lonely, isolated place. The twelve songs lyrically conjure musical sketches of female characters and their inner demons. It plays like a story book and provokes the listeners own shadowy emotions, there’s a little desperate piece of the human condition at the core of every track.
‘Is This Desire’ becomes self indulgent, never settling in one place or mood, PJ Harvey skillfully crafts these songs into a breathtaking and seamless mix of believable characters.
Having mentioned some of the darker aspects, PJ pulls a brilliant balancing act off by creating a mixture of catchy hooks, too die for melodies and hypnotically beautiful vocal arrangements. You do have to work with a couple of tracks at first listen, but I think that these minor efforts do pay off and deliver a completely satisfying experience. I was thinking on this particular day that ‘Is this Desire’ is reminiscent in character to Portishead’s debut album ‘Dummy’.
Having said that , I think that PJ’s album is a vastly superior piece of work. Unlike Portishead, the album never sounds whining. It’s not ‘Poor old me’ with beats.
There is a beautiful quality to PJ Harvey’s voice, every word is crisp an clear, she rarely takes lazy shortcuts with her enunciation. Combining this with her gift for writing accessible and incredibly engaging lyrics; even the most harrowing tracks have an immediacy that makes one want to persevere with them.
Now just over a decade old “Is this desire’ hasn’t dated for me, if anything I have found greater depths of character in its magnificently vivid songs. Have a listen and see what you think.