To Wring You Her Love

John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey
Dance Hall at Louse Point
(Island)

Wherever Louse Point is, it's nowhere near the sheep farms of Yeovil, where Polly Jean Harvey grew up, or the English beach house she currently calls home. From this recording, it more closely resembles the battle-torn landscape of Bosnia, where even the most private acts are vulnerable to danger and betrayal. Listening to Dance Hall at Louse Point is like reading a first-person account of slaughter and atrocity--only the subject is love, not war.

A collaboration between Harvey and longtime friend John Parish, Louse Point is a new PJ Harvey album in everything but name. Parish, who co-produced To Bring You My Love and contributed guitar, organ and percussion throughout, has written the music here, but Harvey's lyrics and vocal contortions carry the day. The angry guitar attack of "Taut" and "Heela" are like blasts from an open furnace, to which Harvey adds a claustrophobic sense that lust edges her closer and closer to damnation.

Even more harrowing is "Rope Bridge Crossing," a psychotic blues shuffle that finds Harvey trying to navigate herself to safety while cursing the assurances of a fickle lover who stands on the other side. Even when Harvey attempts to put a cold, distant spin on a sour relationship, she works herself into a froth: On "Civil War Correspondent," she tells a love to "save your tears for the next who dies," then promptly loses her patience, growling her blueswoman's complaint that "I shout but he don't hear."

Whether it's the near-hysterical falsetto on "City of Sun" or the quiet, seething anger of "That Was My Veil" ("Give me back my veil/Give me back my life"), Harvey seems always distraught over the wreckage of yet another love gone wrong. The only song where Harvey completely keeps her cool is a cover of Peggy Lee's bit of nihilistic kitsch, "Is That All There Is?" The church-revival organ is a bitter joke, since Harvey seems to know that love, life and even death fail to deliver salvation.

Accepting this, Lee chose to drink and dance the night away, while '80s art superstar Jean-Michel Basquiat drugged himself into oblivion (Harvey's version of "Is That All There Is?" also appears on the Basquiat soundtrack). On Louse Point's closing track, "Lost Fun Zone," Harvey sounds like she settled on her own course. She expected love, but she's willing to console herself with one last round of rough sex: "Take me one more time," she repeats over and over, each line working its way higher until the slide guitar that's driven her wild stops cold and her voice goes silent.

 
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