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Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Artist: P.J. Harvey
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 2000

Review by Chatterbox
4 stars out of 4

Dare I say it already? This could be the best album of the year. Harvey plays all the guitars and sings better than she ever has. I've loved her since day one. After I listened to this album 3 times in a row I went back & listened to the rest of her stuff in order. I'd never talk down the older stuff but she's developed quite nicely. I am a borderline audiophile & this album is a dream come true when it comes to sound quality. She uses her trademark distorted vocals as she's done in the past...when she's singing lower it's sweet and smooth and when she gets louder the floodgates open & the distortion kicks in. Like all her stuff it's very emotional but it's not quite as angst ridden as usual...she's writing love songs like she means it.

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

I have to start with a disclaimer. I've never really liked PJ Harvey. l've tried to ever since I heard her debut's Dress, a song that rocked and skillfully mocked stereotypes that wreck many women's self image. But since then I've often found Harvey's music and narcissistic persona grating. I wasn't encouraged when Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea started on Big Exit with Harvey screeching tunelessly, "I'm scared baby, I wanna run/this world's crazy, give me the gun." SFTC,SFTS isn't as bad or annoying as I feared. Harvey has written a group of mostly positive and elegantly romantic songs graced by the glow of being in love in an exciting new place. The music isn't as vivid as the lyrics but it's solid and straight forward, with less attitude to distract from the songs. The music on SFTC, SFTS is sometimes unremarkable but at other times it's quite compelling.

Good Fortune is probably the most straight forward rocker Harvey's ever done and it's a good one. Good Fortune shamelessly cops the riff from Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot but the theft seems like homage. Smith is clearly Harvey's role model of a strong, quirky woman. Good Fortune is a sweet romantic song based in New York, Harvey's new home and the city of the CD's title. Over her clean, steady guitar line and Mick Harvey's good, rubbery bass, Harvey remembers happy downtown moments with her man, ritualistically throws her bad fortune of the top of a tall building and dreams of being "some modern day Bonnie and Clyde." You Said Something, another New York love song, is a very likable, elegant waltz. SFTC,SFTS has a bunch of decent, dreamy songs that are well written if not too exciting. A Place Called Home is a nice, pleasant song. Harvey promises a lover "a place of hope" and asks "just hold onto me." One Line and Beautiful Feeling, both based around Harvey's simply strummed guitar, are austerely beautiful, though fairly stagnant, love songs that are helped by Thom Yorke's quiet, haunting backing vocals. The Mess We're In, with Yorke taking center stage, is a highlight, as powerful and striking as the music he does with Radiohead. The gorgeous weirdness of Yorke's voice is perfect for the spacy music and Harvey's surreal tale though the last verse, with Harvey speaking, then Yorke singing, the same lines is too cutely artsy. My least favorite song is The Whores Hustle and The Hustler Whore, where Harvey uninterestingly shows off her grittiness. Kamikaze, is a familiar sounding Harvey rocker, but it gets a good edge from Mick Harvey's bass and PJ's guitar and striking falsetto. This is Love is also kind of obvious but the directness of Harvey's vocal and lyrics("I can't believe life's so complex when I just wanna sit here and watch you undress") is compelling. We Float is a very good, atmospheric finish to the CD. Harvey's vocal and minimal keyboards are suitably graceful as she sings about getting past the obsessive stage of a relationship to a more relaxed, easy state of bliss.

Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is probably PJ Harvey's best record yet. I feel guilty that I don't like it better. It's a hard record to criticize. It's well played and sounds good. Harvey's voice has matured. Her persona has become less offputting and more appealing. The lyrics are among the best for any CD this year; direct, evocative tales of a woman who's still bright and strong but swept up by love's ecstasy. The music is good and almost always listenable though it only really grabs me on a few songs.



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