“Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden: Day 3 (Seeing the Grunge Prototype Stretch its ‘Tendrils’ into the British Rock of PJ Harvey)”

Guess what, Soundgarden. You can’t escape your inferiority. You’re still “outshined”; it’s like those pitchfork geeks said all along, because everything you accomplished anatomically, PJ Harvey still made the music you’d always wanted to make, with “Long Snake Moan.”
Sometimes it takes just the right catharsis merchant to exercise some good ol’ fashioned voodoo. Chuck Berry initiated it on “30 Days” (after what I’m sure was a veritable bevy of Delta Blues precedents), calling it in the meantime “hoodoo” which is just a dialectical permutation of the word; Alice in Chains on “Head Creeps” saw fit to “Stick black dress doll with pin”; and then of course there’s the inimitable Hot Hot Heat stomper “Bandages.” All of these sessions make for poignant musical moments.
And I’m not going to get into a huge, long discussion of the way PJ Harvey mastered sexuality here… I’ll leave that to someone who isn’t the home of a “y” chromosome… but I think she wields a marked edge over the ‘garden in the department of confidence in discussing sexual escapades. In general, this is something lacking in male lyrics (or at least in WHITE male lyrics, let’s not forget C.L. Smooth and Grand Puba)… evidenced in how the already married Jeff Tweedy devolves into the desperate plea of “Take off you Band-Aid ‘cause I don’t believe in touchdowns”.
The producers on Harvey’s album To Bring You My Love — Flood (now member of and producer in The Jesus and Mary Chain) and John Parish (songwriting, performance and nomenclatural collaborator on excellent Harvey album A Woman a Man Walked by) work in tandem with Harvey’s patience in enduring a worthy five minutes for this song in creating a textural, cavernous rock and roll experience.
In all Seattle grunge, there tends to be a lack of humor, and while it often works, the drawback is that it usually if not always comes at the expense of the sexual (such matters coming to a tragicomic head on the albeit musically awesome Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge by Mudhoney). On “Long Snake Moan,” Harvey works rhythmically and systematically, not unlike the sex act itself. It’s great music for walking to with a Discman through the streets of downtown Denver. It does garner, or attempt to garner, sympathy from the listener, the way Soundgarden, and grunge in general, seemed to always do. The liquefied texture of the guitar combined with its crested caterwauls of power, in fact, serve to make up a viable “post-grunge,” a much needed artistic ticket for the listener out of the circular reasoning of that same ol’ narcissism. Or if it is still narcissism, at least she’s like, pretending to be a dude, which you’ve gotta admit is kinda funny. It’s possible too though that with “Long Snake Moan” and with To Bring You My Love in general, with its glossier, fuller production (Rid of Me had been the progeny of Steve Albini), she was going to a larger audience (she’d also be more scantily clad on this album’s tour) and so was directing things to those who hadn’t necessarily already taken in her prior exploits of androgyny a la “50 ft. Queenie”; “Man-Size.” For probably this reason, pitchfork didn’t like her project either. Never again, would the great vaunted music journal pitchfork like another song, folks, until The Strokes came out with the subtle anthem “I Can’t Win.” And that, kind folks, is how them Seinfeld-lovin’ city boys won the war. Choose your realities wisely.

24 thoughts on ““Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden: Day 3 (Seeing the Grunge Prototype Stretch its ‘Tendrils’ into the British Rock of PJ Harvey)”

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