Live Review – P J Harvey

Photo credit: Beth Chalmers/Edinburgh International Festival (used with permission)

PJ Harvey

Edinburgh Playhouse, August 7, 2017

It’s now 25 years since PJ Harvey released her debut album, Dry. It was clear that she was one of a kind then – and tonight’s performance demonstrated that they broke the mould thereafter.

Rock acts playing during the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe – now celebrating its seventieth year – are not new, but the calibre of both performers and performance indicate just how high the standard is here. PJ Harvey and the nine members of her band come on not to backing tracks, strutting like peacocks, but process in a line, beating drums. They open with an extended version of ‘Chain Of Keys’ taken from last year’s The Hope Six Memorial Project. When Harvey first appeared she was usually to be seen wielding a guitar, now she adds saxophone to the proceedings, often holding it aloft when not playing. The songs sounded pretty impressive on record, but the live show really takes it to a whole new level. A brick wall slowly rises during ‘Chain’ symbolic about the notions of division and war that inform the record.

Even the writing and making of the album was – yet again – sign that Polly Jean is no ordinary artist. Both this album, and her previous album, Let England Shake, are intensely personal and political records, but never preaching. The Hope Six Demolition Project, is an account of her travels to experience post-war Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the clearance of housing in Washington DC, and then recorded at Somerset House in London, where the public could watch.

And here it’s all delivered in a way that adds to an impressive visual display. Not by using video or photography, but rather by the way hat the band play together on stage. In many ways it feels like watching a play, as they play to the audience but not descending to cliche.The band includes longterm collaborators Mick Harvey and John Parrish, as well as the Bad Seeds’ James Johnston, legendary brass player Terry Edwards and Queen Of The Stone Age’s Alain Johannes.

As well as album highlights like the record opener ‘The Community Of Hope’ and ‘The Wheel’ there is a carefully selected use of older songs from her back catalogue. Flowing so well together, it’s tempting to marvel and wonder at how carefully planned this whole show is. So as well as songs from her previous record like ‘Let England Shake,’ ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ and ‘The Glorious Land there are also outings for earlier singles like ‘Down By The Water’ and ’50 Ft Queenie.’ It’s incredible to think as she demonstrates her gothic blues that these songs made the top forty, and how fresh they still feel.

The effect on the audience is worth noting, too. My fiancĂ©e clutches my arm at one point in astonishment: ‘hardly anyone’s got a phone out!’ she says in wonder. There’s several kids in the audience, who may well be having their first experience of live music but also people considerably older than your forty year old scribe. At the end of the set, the band receivbe a standing ovation. The only concession to being a rock gig is the introduction of the band members – done with warmth, but no need to descend into cliche.

Even the encores are special. It’s her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ which she first visited on her second album, 1993’s Rid Of Me. And the magical finale ofthe hypnotic ‘River Anacostia’ which becomes like a mantra as we file out in awe.


The long-awaited return of PJ Harvey


Five years since her last album, Let England Shake, PJ Harvey will release her sixth album The Hope Six Demolition Project on April 15. It’s her ninth studio album since 1992’s Dry album.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. The Community of Hope
2. The Ministry of Defence
3. A Line in the Sand
4. CChain of Keys
5. River Anacostia
6. Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
7. The Orange Monkey
8. Medicinals
9. The Ministry of Social Affairs
10. The Wheel
11. Dollar, Dollar

The first track to be released from the album is ‘The Wheel’ which is available to download now, and will be available as a 7″ shortly.

Album review – PJ Harvey


PJ Harvey -‘Let England Shake.’ (Island)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past month and/or have no interest in contemporary music, you will be aware by now that PJ Harvey is about to release her eighth album. And the reviews have been nothing less than extremely excited. Already, people are starting to talk about (whisper it) album of the year.

Polly Jean’s music have always been nakedly personal and deeply powerful, and this album sees no change from that. As you’ve probably deduced from the press, this is her first album to be deeply political. It would have been hard to live through the last years on Earth and not felt the effects of 9/11, the deeply divisive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan impact on you in some way. The album was completed last year, so recent uprisings in the arab world have not made their mark here, but you sense la Harvey is watching and waiting…

It’s an album inspired by the horrors of war. Being one of the most gifted lyricists around, as you’d expect it’s a pretty thought-provoking record, with images of soldiers blown ‘like lumps of meat,’ friends dying on the battlefield, and what it means to be English when you’re country gets involved in wars. However, wisely, she does not preach, only reflect. (She may share management and arecord company with U2, but there’s no danger of her turning into Bono).

While the lyrics are dark, the music is thoughtful, rather than the anguished torture of albums like the Steve Albini-produced Rid Of Me. It’s musically different from here last solo album, White Chalk, and yet the piano-driven feel of that album has left its’ mark in a positive way. Like all her albums, it stands completely on its’ own merits. The album was recorded with long-term collaborators John Parish and (former Bad Seed) Mick Harvey, and produced by Flood. It also features an innovative use of samples and reference points. These include the motif from ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’ on the title track, while ‘The Glorious Land’ features both a bugle call and a drum loop from the Police’s ‘The Bed’s Too Big Without You.’ Additionally music from said El Kurdi and Winston ‘Niney’ Holness and writings from L.A. Carlyon and Maurice Shadbolt add to the pallette that she is working from.

Twenty years in, Polly Harvey still startles and still stands as one of the most original recording artists to have emerged from the British Isles. She may sing of ‘England’s Dancing Days’ being gone on the title track, but by God, PJ Harvey’s days of creativity seem to be endless. Which is why this album gets…


Let England Shake is released by Island on February 14.

Written On The Forehead by pjharvey

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake


So very excited about the release of PJ Harvey’s latest LP, Let England Shake, next week (the same day as Mogwai release Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will; a busy week for us aging indie kids;) )

So stream it here!

The title track has evolved from the earlier performance last year when Polly Jean played it live on TV in front of none other than Gordon Brown (yes, you did read that right). the sample of ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’ has gone and is replaced by the tune slightly lower in the mix than it was here

The single ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ is out now – here’s the video:

…and you can read my review here. She’s also going to be preseneted with this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Music award at this year’s NME Awards.

Listen to the album and let me know what you think…

…and more music from my inbox

Often there’s so much music coming into my inbox that I really struggle to write about it all, even when it’s stuff i want to cover.

So I’m going to kill three cliches, sorry, birds with one stone and write about three things I’m enjoying right now.

First up, Anna Calvi’s self-titled debut album has been getting folks in a lather. While I haven’t heard it yet, on the basis of this very fibe track, I’m pretty anxious to. And nick cave and Jarvis Cocler are fans…what more could you possibly need?

Anna Calvi -‘Suzanne and I.’ mp3

Charles Bradley may be sixty-two, but he’s just about to release his debut album, entitled No Time For Dreaming. This is the first track from it, entitled ‘the World(Is Going Up In Flames)’ and it’s awesome. A classic bit of soul.

Charles Bradley -‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames).’ mp3

I’m pretty excited about Mogwai’s new album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, and I posted ‘Rano Pano’ from it before Christmas. Another track, entitled ‘San Pedro’ has been posted to download, from the album which is out on February 14 (15 in the US):

Mogwai -‘San Pedro.’ mp3

The video for Rano Pano can be seen here

Finally, PJ Harvey’s ‘The Word That Maketh Murder’ single is out now to download, from the forthcoming Let England Shake

Getting ready for 2011 part 2: PJ Harvey


As mentioned already on this blog, PJ Harvey will return with her new album, Let England Shake, on February 14, 2011.

You can stream ‘Written on the Forehead’ below. And what it proves -very nicely -is that she continues to persue her own path. And to do it extremely well. This suggests that Let England Shake will be just as different in its’ own way as White Chalk or any of her albums were from each other.

Written On The Forehead by pjharvey

The tracklisting is as follows:

1. Let England Shake
2. The Last Living Rose
3. The Glorious Land
4. The Words That Maketh Murder
5. All And Everyone
6. On Battleship Hill
7. England
8. In The Dark Places
9. Bitter Branches
10. Hanging In The Wire
11. Written On The Forehead
12. The Colour of The Earth

This is her performing the title track on the Andrew Marr show earlier this year, in front of, amongst others, then Prime minister Gordon Brown:

The return of PJ Harvey


2010 isn’t even over, I haven’t really got to grips with my end of year lists, but I’m already looking forward to what 2011 will bring musically.

And one of those things is the eighth studio album from PJ Harvey.*

It’s entitled Let England Shake and will be released on February 14 on Island. It’s been produced by PJ with Mick Harvey, Flood and John Parish. There’s been a handful of dates been released -and a return to the festival stage is also mooted.

If you haven’t seen her live before – i know I posted this clip last year, but it was a fantastic performance to witness (I was there! Still so proud…):

More details as and when I have it but here’s something from the 1993 session she did for John Peel:

PJ Harvey -‘Naked Cousin (Peel session).’ mp3

*the PR folk are obviously not including the two collaborations with John Parrish, 4 track demos or the Peel Sessions LP. That’s fair enough, I guess.

Happy Birthday PJ Harvey


Amazingly, it is PJ Harvey’s 40th birthday today.

The woman is a goddess, has made too many brilliant albums to count, though my favourite is probably To Bring You My Love…and it was her endorsement of Captain Beefheart that led to me really getting into him, along with John Peel (obviously).

I’m posting this – I was there -and it was bloody awesome. I’d heard this on Peel (natch) a few months previously – but this was a moment.

From Glastonbury 1995…

…as well as the awesome debut single:

PJ Harvey -‘Dress.’ mp3

More Festive Fifty Fabulousness

Just as it says on the tin.

PJ Harvey -‘Naked Cousin (Peel Session).’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.32)

PJ Harvey -‘Wang Dang Doodle (Peel session).’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.18)

That Petrol Emotion -‘Big Decision.’ mp3 (1987 Festive Fifty no.4)

Gene -‘As Good As It Gets.’ mp3 (1999 Festive Fifty no.33)

Madder Rose -‘Beautiful John.’ mp3 (1993 Festive Fifty no.36)

Madder Rose -‘Lights Go Down.’ mp3 (1993 Festive fifty no.44)

Dinosaur Jr -‘Get Me.’ mp3 (1993 Festive fifty no.42)

Belle And Sebastian -‘Sleep The Clock Around.’ mp3 (1998 Festive Fifty no.26)

Belle and Sebastian -‘The Boy With The Arab Strap.’ mp3 (1998 Festive Fifty no.3)

House of Love -‘Love In A Car.’ mp3 (1988 Festive Fifty no.18)

If you like the PJ Harvey stuff particularly (and you should) check out Teenage Kicks has done another excellent post.

Hope you like this one it has taken several days work…