By the time To Bring You My Love came out, I'd begun to overcome my fear of PJ Harvey. Because of that, checking this one out from the EPFL isn't so much hearing a good album for the first time as it is rediscovering an old friend. And this album is a friend; granted, it's the kind of friend that is angry and scary and drinks too much and makes your loved ones wonder what you see in it, but it's still a friend.
This album is dark. It's dark in the way that Tom Waits and Nick Cave are dark. Sometimes it's dark in a punk way, sometimes it's dark in a bluesy way, and sometimes it's dark in an almost cabaret way. There's not a lot of joy here. Actually, that's not true, because there is a sense that Harvey enjoys being dark. She sounds like she enjoys both pushing her own boundaries and pushing other people's buttons. One or two of the songs aren't great, but most of them are incredibly strong. Some are creepy, some are dark and some are aggressive, but nearly all of them are powerful.
This cover is especially striking when it's compared to Rid of Me. A dressed and made-up Harvey lies in a pool of water on the cover as if she's dead. On the back of the jacket, she poses in the same gown and make-up. What's interesting is how out-of-place she looks. While I don't know the story behind these pictures, it almost appears as if the record label told her, "Polly, we let you do the ugly pictures on the last album, now you have to give us some diva shots." So she did, but she's so ill-suited to be a diva that these pictures are a giant "screw you" to an industry that says only pretty girls sell records. There's still very little in the way of content, but at least the jacket has some sense of design.
Listen if you like: Nick Cave, Tom Waits
If it were food, it'd be: A piece of fried chicken and a large black coffee at a hole-in-the-wall diner in the middle of the night on a long and tiring car ride through the South in the summertime.