Amidst many mythologies and urban legends, we have PJ Harvey, a woman the semantics of whose discography run the full gamut of human perspectives — from self-conscious “Dress” teenie, to “Man-Size,” to Uh Huh Her, a vial of acute, staggering loneliness.
Listening to Uh Huh Her for the first time was like getting a letter that your dad just died. As everyone knows, it followed Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, a paean to true love with talks of a “Rooftop in Brooklyn / One in the mornin’ / You said somethin’ / That I’ve never forgotten.”
I’ve heard this song in grocery stores, “You Said Something.” Do not they know that love turned sour, driving her out into the “midday sun,” with “a lesson (she) didn’t wanna learn?” Which album is more beautiful? It’s Uh Huh Her, and it’s this album that has a firm, timeless spot in my sense of the most concentrated landscape immediacy. And similar to the case with Beck’s Sea Change followed by Guero, if only for the song “Broken Drum,” the calamity is continued on ensuing White Chalk, with centerpiece standout “Silence”’s closing mantra: “Silence / Silence / Silence / Silence / Silence.”
It’s interesting to compare the careers of Beck and PJ Harvey, because they’re roughly convivial, and they each feature this motif of heartbreak album following an album that was relatively lighthearted, at least Stories was by Harvey’s standards. But really, Stories blows away Midnite Vultures, with hushing lullabies like “Horses in My Dreams” and the haunting in stature “One Line.” Harvey definitely seems less deserving of the heartbreak that befell her. Also, needless to say, we’re still waiting for Beck to make a Let England Shake, we’re still curious about what he really notices. Understandably, he’s probably afraid to say.