• A WOMAN A MAN WALKED BY- Track by Track Review copied from The Fly

    14 fév. 2009, 21h46m

    Jan 21 2009 1:09 pm, Harriet Gibsone

    Track By Track Preview Of PJ Harvey's Latest

    PJ Harvey & John Parish

    'A Woman A Man Walked By'


    The queen of surreal sexuality, gothic romance and nightmarish fantasy returns with an album made by long-term collaborator John Parish. 'A Woman A Man Walked By' is a body of folk tales, funeral songs and trapped, tangled love songs. And most of all – it’s fooking brilliant. Here's a track by track review:

    1 ‘Black Hearted Love’

    This song is so bloody good. It kicks in with a kind of Stephen Malkmus drowsy, shoegaze guitar, before Polly’s dusty voice tells a tale of dark, twisted, irrepressible love, ‘I think I saw you in the shadows/I move in closer beneath your windows/Who would suspect me of this rapture?’ It is kind of reminiscent of Uh Huh Her’s ‘It’s You’, meets ‘Stories From The Cities, Stories From The Sea’’s ‘This Is Love’. This is a glorious, dirgey rock track, albeit a misguiding introduction to the rest of the record.

    2 ‘Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen’

    A butchered mandolin strums, with a Celtic sounding drum increasing in volume in anticipation to Harvey’s folktale-style narrative that slips in. Hand claps push towards a full expansive ‘How Soon Is Now’ guitar clang and Polly shrieks in anguish before a spellbound mumbling ensues. It’s a feverishly bewitching track that ends in nightmarish panting. Totally inspired.

    3 'Leaving California'

    This track picks up from where ‘White Chalk’ left off - Polly, high pitched and otherworldly sings a tale of regret over the top of an early cinema-styled crooked piano twinkling and out of tune acoustic guitars. A lonely, beguiling track that reveals how ‘ California killed me’ and concludes with the echoing, siren-like pondering ‘I think it’s time to leave’.

    4 'The Chair'

    'The Chair' starts incessant, with Radiohead’s ‘Morning Bell’ styled drumming and wistful questioning from Polly as she sings ‘Where have you gone?’, words that cascade into a whirlpool of layered xylophone, guitars and keys. Before a surreal landscape of MBV vocals slice through and that early cinema-styled piano clumsily falls over the top. A bit of it sounds like when you’re on MySpace and the song on the main player comes on automatically and then you press stop because something else on that band’s MySpace has kicked in and you’re listening to two songs at the same time. But it’s not - it’s just a weird, anarchic fusion of sounds.

    5 'April'

    Half way through the album now. A muddled, haggard sounding voice trembles like a drunken old hag at the bar looking into her Gin & Tonic and finger wagging about ‘April’ to a cat who she thinks is her brother who got shot once or something. Gospel-like keys chime, and is that a whisp of accordion we can hear? Not sure. ‘April’ is a stylish, saloon-like funeral procession of a song. It’s a tad skippable when you’ve heard it once.

    6 'A Woman A Man Walked By' / 'The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go'

    Oh it’s title track time! The funeral procession is over and PJ Harvey is riddling about a surreal, disgusting and nightmarish ‘woman/man’ who has, ‘chicken liver balls/he had chicken liver spleen/he had chicken liver heart made of chicken liver parts’. The first 10 seconds sound like a distant, tinny version Elbow’s track ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ - that bluesy guitar scratching. Then the track cascades into a League Of Gentlemen-esque situation, a desire driven, hellish scenario with Radiohead's ‘There There’ sounding war drums. PJ Harvey growls, schizophrenically squealing with absurd joy and deranged anger all at the once, as she spits ‘Just to get up your fucking ass!’ Not sure what she’s on about in this one but it’s a gargoylistic monster of a song that slips into it’s second half with unperturbed ease. 'The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go', is a kitchen-sink piano instrumental, that sounds like a soundtrack to a princess being chased around a dark forest full of goblins and HER REAL FATHER. Make of that what you will.

    7 'The Soldier'

    PJ Harvey is back to her feverish nightmare, but this time it sounds like she’s coming out of the other side. A beautiful, simple track which sees Harvey toss and turn, confused in between her dream and reality of being a soldier 'Send me home/Restless/Send me home/Damaged', before we hear the innocent sounds of the Melodica whine melancholically.

    8 'Pig Will Not'

    Oh don’t put this one on with a hangover. Or do, it depends on how you treat your hangover. A ‘Kamikaze’ crunch of guitars kicks in with gargling wails as Polly adamantly shouts ‘I WILL NOT’, over the top of her confused, schizophrenic other half who repeats it trance-like underneathe. There’s something very ‘Hail To The Theif’ about the incessancy of this track, but with a unique and utterly brilliant sound of Harvey literally barking over the top before she commands the lyrics in her preacher-like tone ‘Hear me and you’ll hear the law! I am your guardian! I am your fairy!’ She’s pissed off in this track I wouldn’t wake her up.

    9 'Passionless, Pointless'

    When this track kicks in you realise just how incredibly versatile PJ Harvey is. Returning to her sombre, smooth voice, after the lunacy of ‘Pig Will Not’, the vulnerability of ‘The Soldier’ it’s like she has just broken the spell and someone’s let go of the grasp of the choke. ‘Passionless/Pointless/Where does the passion go? There’s no kindness in your hands/No reaching out/For me’, she groundedly sings in a sudden, numb release of pain.

    10 'Cracks In The Canvas'

    The final track to this album sounds like the start of that All Saints song where they’re like ‘A few questions that I need to know/How you could ever hurt me so..’ or whatever it was, but obviously a lot more chic. As PJ Harvey suicidally whispers ‘Go to sleep’, it sounds like she’s just necked a load of tablets and is slowly falling into a deep sleep she will never wake up from because she is dying, bidding farewell to people she’s loved and speaking to god. Morbid, mesmeric and meticulously melancholic.

    Harriet Gibsone