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Tag: PJ Harvey

Elegant, Passionate Witchery

Elegant, Passionate Witchery

Kate Bush
Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s first album came out when she was just 20 years old, in 1978. She had been “discovered” prior to that by David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd fame. I imagine it wasn’t that difficult to notice how unusual she was, how eccentric, cerebral, gifted, and glowingly strange. Many of my favorite female singer/songwriters from the 90s were influenced a great deal by her. Milla Jovovich, Tori Amos, and P.J. Harvey, especially. And she was quite the buzz in the literary circles of two colleges I attended. Which made sense. Sound and sense. Kate Bush utilized literary sources for many of her songs, and recently contributed to the songtrack of The Golden Compass. Dickens, Bronte, Joyce and Tennyson are some of the literary giants she integrated into her music. Bush wanted to use at least some of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from Ulysses in her song, The Sensual World, but the Joyce estate said no. So she wrote her own lyrics for Molly.

Of course, the fact that Kate Bush is literary and influenced by great writers was not the sole reason for her popularity. She sings beautifully, is wild strange, writes haunting songs, and follows no formula. If you have forgotten about her, give her a listen . . .

Hounds of Love

 

Polly Jean, Punk Noir Princess

Polly Jean, Punk Noir Princess

If you’re a great artist, you’re going to be misunderstood. That’s all but guaranteed. Much depends, though, on the degree of your own complicity, your own attempts to evolve, wear masks, repudiate old passions and personnas. Much depends upon how often you “put on” others and then take those put-ons back.

Few musicians have undergone as many incarnations, in so short a time span, as Polly Jean Harvey, better know as PJ. She’s been a vamp, a tramp, a chanteuse, a rocker, a folky, a poet, a punk and a tease. Always with an edge, overt or covert, PJ Harvey won’t stand still and she won’t give in to the pressures that face all successful commercial musicians.

Born (1969) in Dorset, England, Polly Jean was raised on a sheep farm, which is probably a bit unusual for a future Punk Noir goddess of the deep. Her parents, a stonemason and a sculptor (PJ is a sculptor in her own right), fed her a steady, eclectic diet of Blues, Rock and Jazz, which set the stage for her own encounters with an even wider range of music. In recent interviews, she has discussed her exploration of classical music, especially Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Samuel Barber. Her peformances and albums reflect that diversity.

Her energy is phenomenal. I hear it in her voice, her guitar licks, and see it in her videos. The complexity of human emotion carried in her music is haunting. She is never boring, and always surprising.

In this video, Harvey struts like a king of Rock N Roll, and does it better than 99% of the best prancers in the biz. Her swagger, her cockiness, her strength break the rules and shatter ceilings.

 

I haven’t listened to all of her albums, but my favorite so far is Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea. New York comes to mind, along with Patti Smith. But mostly, the sense of a tortured, dynamic soul, reacting to the night, reacting to the fragility of life with an in-your-face defiance that hurts.