When Rid of Me came out, I hated it. I liked my female vocalists to possess angelic voices that were sad and mopey. A dash of sexy didn't hurt, as long as there wasn't too much sexy. The sexy couldn't outweigh the sad, if you know what I'm saying.
Needless to say, Polly Harvey freaked me out back then. She didn't sound sad, and she certainly wasn't angelic. Honestly, her moaning and her groaning was kinda scary. She didn't weep about doomed relationships, she wailed about them. She didn't quietly celebrate her soft femininity, she raged about it. All the while, the band was way too busy kicking ass to waste time strumming guitars over pretty piano chords.
I've grown up a bit since then, so when I checked out Rid of Me from the EPFL, I was ready to tackle it with ears that weren't afraid of raw emotion. It's a good thing, because there's a lot of raw emotion on this album. Coupled with the raw production, it makes for a pretty raw album.
And that's good. The rawness here is the kind of rawness that the musical world needs. I wish there were more of this kind of rawness in music. It's the kind of thing that grabs you by the throat (or by the ears, I guess), shakes you, and says, "Hey, motherfucker, I'm alive and I'm feeling some shit, and you're gonna hear me out."
Rid of Me may not be as good as it's been made out to be over the years, but it's still pretty awesome. Steve Albini's production captures the band's raw energy without making them sound small or sloppy. The dynamics are excellent, and of all the quiet/loud/quiet bands that sprouted during the early '90s (including Nirvana), none of them captured musical extremes as well as PJ Harvey did on the song "Rid of Me." The album is somewhat repetitive, and they probably could've ditched tracks 2-5. The opening song is incredible, though, and the second half of the album is so unstoppable that I'm disappointed when it ends.
There's nothing pretty about the photos of Polly Harvey. I hated them 15 years ago, but I love them today. The lighting and shading are completely unflattering, and remind me of the American Apparel ad campaigns. (Why does a clothing company market their wares (wears?) in a way that is, at least in my opinion, completely unsexy? Obviously they understand something I don't, because I bet they make way more money with their "unsexy" ad campaigns than I make with my library blog. Anyway.) If the jacket contained more than song titles and credits -- or at least if they were presented in a remotely interesting way -- the packaging would've gotten a higher score.
Listen if you like: Nirvana, The Kills, The Pixies, Cat Power, Patti Smith
If it were food, it'd be: A shot of tequila, straight up with no lime or salt or any of that other nonsense that people do to ruin the sweet bite of tequila.