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“Emancipation from Faith in Art: PJ Harvey”

“What do you do / When the magic’s gone?” once queried The Olivia Tremor Control… “There is an ideal / I’m gonna reach for it.” Now depending on where you are in life, I think, you’re liable to either cast this tenet off as depressing desultoriness, or to cling to it as to an anchor that’s saving you from undertow.

Anyway, the last thing I remember about Eminem’s albums he did after The Eminem Show was a palpable homophobia, even insinuating that there were gay motifs in the NFL, yes, the National Football League. And for how much amusing promise he showed on wax, for some time now I’ve felt that his best work WAS the movie 8 Mile, and that truthfully he never made a good record after “Lose Yourself” — listenable, maybe, but really not good, not by the standards he’d granted us with “Role Model” and “Bit** Please II”, et. al.
PJ Harvey’s an example of an artist who’s always followed her own ideals, and she’s grippingly fearless in what she’s willing to say on a high-profile rock album. She feels a quaint presence of what in her own mind, in her own “soul,” she views as an “angel” and “God” riding with her, so she comes right and says it, on “Victory”: “How how lucky we are / Angel at my table God in my car.” This all on her first album dry, which also sees “Water” having her “Walking / Walking on waaaaater!” Kanye, Lily Allen and O.D.B. eat your heart out, this is her first album, folks.
Now, she always keeps us at a certain distance though, and even through the ecstatic highs of a romance, per Stories of the City, Stories of the Sea’s “Good Fortune” and “You Said Something,” down through the dregs of heartbreak, Uh Huh Her’s “It’s You,” White Chalk’s “Silence,” she keeps things fluid, not allowing for a single stagnant place of mire on any album. In other words, though we get images powerful enough to galvanize our own lives, we never really KNOW her, she’s always holding something back, until delivering diatribes on apocalypse on her last album, Let England Shake.
It seems she’s covered all her bases, but what is the ideal? To me, it’s her complete lack of ideal, her muse itself running sovereign, what she sees being seen by her own self as something to give, something to heave into the molten fire of pop music while it’s still at a hot temperature, that has driven her to critical and popular eliteness in indie rock.