Saturday, January 19, 2008

PJ Harvey - Rid Of Me

In January 1991, she formed the original PJ Harvey three-piece band, with herself on vocals and guitars, ex-Automatic Dlamini bandmate Rob Ellis on drums and Ian Olliver on bass (though Olliver was swiftly replaced by Steve Vaughan).

Rid of Me is the second album by PJ Harvey. Released in 1993, it was largely recorded and produced by the controversial engineer Steve Albini, except for one track ("Man-Size Sextet" by Head, Harvey and Robert Ellis). The album includes a cover of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited".

This was the last album to be released before the original trio split. The album was recorded mostly live in a Minneapolis studio over two weeks in December 1992 by Albini. Harvey had admired Albini’s distinctively raw recordings of bands like Pixies, Slint, The Breeders and The Jesus Lizard. In the album's press release she said:

I chose to work with him because more than any other engineer I know, he captures the sound of a band playing live—the sound of real instruments, of a drum kick. It doesn't sound processed, squashed or recorded in any way. It sounds like you're standing in front of a playing band. I think the instruments on the album sound like they're breathing and real. That's what I've always wanted to capture on record.

Stylistically the record was a natural progression from the heavily guitar-driven punk-blues of her debut Dry, though it also embraced both the noisy elementary dynamics of the Pixies (she claimed their Albini-produced 1988 debut Surfer Rosa as one of her favourite albums), and 60s/70s blues-based rock acts such as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The record attracted some controversy for its striking black-and-white cover photography by Maria Mochnacz—the front sleeve depicted a thin, topless Harvey in a bathroom, swinging back a drenched mane of Medusa-like hair, while the back cover was a close-up of her face marked with what appeared to be rope burns.

Harvey explained to Filter magazine in 2004 that:

Rid of Me was when I'd first signed to a major label and I felt that I wanted to—more than ever—demonstrate that I was not going to be the kind of usually expected major artist material [laughs]. So, I chose to work with Steve Albini, who is definitely not a particularly commercial engineer and I made a very difficult record. And I'm glad I did because I think it really did set the tone... I just wanted the people involved to know that I can only do things that follow my heart, that I cannot make music to suit other people. It has to be the way it has to be and if you don't like it, then leave me alone. So, that was part of that, but having said that, I've been with the same label for 12 years and I think they know me very well and just let me get on with it now.

Surprisingly for such an uncommercial-sounding record, Rid of Me entered the UK album charts at number three and quickly went silver, and even enjoyed a Top 30 hit in the single "50ft Queenie". It was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. In the U.S. it generated major college-radio airplay and expanded her growing cult fanbase, and led to a string of European dates opening for U2 on their Zooropa tour. It also won considerable critical acclaim and featured in various Top Ten album-of-the-year lists in respectable press, like The Village Voice, Spin, Melody Maker, Vox and Select. Melody Maker raved that "No other British artist is so aggressively exploring the dark side of human nature, or its illogically black humour; no other British artist possesses the nerve, let alone the talent, to conjure up its soundtrack", while Spin gave it a rare ten out of ten review rating. If anything its critical stature has grown over the years—Rolling Stone selected it as one of the Essential Recordings of the 90s, and in 2005, Spin ranked it the ninth greatest album of 1985–2005. In 2003, the album was ranked number 405 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. As of 2005, Rid of Me has sold 210,000 copies in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

Nice article... Thanks A

bruce said...

cheers A