P J Harvey debuts new songs on TV and will design Zoetrope literary magazine
April 30, 2010 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this month, P J Harvey appeared on The Andrew Marr Show and performed a new song called "Let England Shake" as Gordon Brown watched on a television. Harvey debuted the song last summer, along with another new song entitled "The Last Living Rose." In an interview prior to the performance, Harvey revealed that she wrote "about half" of her new album on her three alternately-tuned autoharps. Harvey loyalists may recall that she seemed to enjoy playing the unusual instrument on her last solo tour.

In other news, Harvey will be the guest designer of the summer issue of Francis Ford Coppola's quarterly literary magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. The issue will include "previously unseen artwork, sculpture, and drawings" by Harvey, who is believed to be recording her new album presently with longtime collaborators John Parish and Flood. Harvey and Parish considered recording in Berlin, but ultimately decided to record in Dorset instead.
posted by Houyhnhnm (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was -- and I say this as a long-time fan -- some serious WTF material right there.
posted by feckless at 3:36 PM on April 30, 2010


I thought I had to stop liking her because she was dating Vincent Gallo, but apparently that's either over or never actually happened (according to him, they're "just friends"). So that's cool, then.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:36 PM on April 30, 2010


I thought I had to stop liking her because she was dating Vincent Gallo, but apparently that's either over or never actually happened (according to him, they're "just friends"). So that's cool, then.

I once saw Vincent Gallo with a dead ringer for PJ on his arm at a Sonic Youth show in LA, but it wasn't really her.
posted by anazgnos at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2010


I'm not sure how much I would pay to see PJ Havey, Bjork and Lady Gaga team-up for a video, but it would be a lot.
posted by oddman at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The world will forever be a much more interesting place for Polly Jean having passed through it.
posted by Danf at 3:50 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, sometimes something will just give you a sheer, shameless moment of proud fierce love for the weird over the square.
posted by Drexen at 3:50 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can we please try to make this about PJ, and not drag Lady Gaga into it? She already has a post a day about her.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:56 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I used to like that girl, but she just jumped the shark for me there.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:00 PM on April 30, 2010


Loving the fact she did it on the Andrew Marr Show - wtf? Marr is a pretty weird guy, so I imagine he's into it, but the dude sitting next to him was probably some junior shadow minister for the treasury or some shit. I want to see more of his reaction.
posted by afx237vi at 4:07 PM on April 30, 2010


She sure doesn't rest on her laurels. Please keep the WTF flowing, PJ.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, Polly Jean -- what has become of you? Harpsichord?Wtf?
posted by vhsiv at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2010


After seeing that Let England Shake video, PJ Harvey now register 31.5 Microbjorks.
posted by boo_radley at 4:10 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I approve this post.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on April 30, 2010


Awesome. This is no weirder or crazier than anything else she's done -- harpsichord or no. She's been off on this tangent since at least Is This Desire? I'd love to have the 4 Track Demos PJH back for a spell, but then I'd love to have a lot of things back that will never be back.

I particularly love the way Gordon Brown sits there watching tensely with his hands tented.
posted by blucevalo at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harvey and Parish considered recording in Berlin, but ultimately decided to record in Dorset instead.

That's a shame. Interesting things happen when artists record in Berlin.
posted by hippybear at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2010


esoterrific
posted by Saddo at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2010


Oh, Polly Jean -- what has become of you? Harpsichord?Wtf?

She's not playing harpsichord in that clip.

Anyone else interested in checking out previous instances of autoharp awesomness in rock is directed to the recent reissue of Texas Psych band Cold Sun's Dark Shadows, particularly the majestic "Here In the Year". Bandleader Bill Miller would go on to play electric autoharp in Roky Erickson's Aliens.
posted by anazgnos at 4:34 PM on April 30, 2010


I used to like that girl, but she just jumped the shark for me there.

I dunno... It must get kind of boring to do the same old same old year after year (like the Rolling Stones, for example). At least Polly Harvey is willing to experiment.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:45 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I had no idea the autoharp was considered a weird instrument. I remember playing with one in grade school music class. Huh.
posted by khaibit at 4:47 PM on April 30, 2010


I'm not sure how much I would pay to see PJ Havey, Bjork and Lady Gaga team-up for a video


2 out of 3, but you might have know about this already...
posted by edgeways at 4:54 PM on April 30, 2010


I didn't realize that "PJ" stood for Joanna Newsom.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2010


It's not as weird as the Constantinople by the Residents
posted by bhnyc at 5:02 PM on April 30, 2010


It isn't a harpsichord. An autoharp is more like a tiny little harp that you strum and change chords with buttons. My elementary school music teacher used one in her teaching all the time. It is easy to play on a basic level, but some people make more of an art of it, like this lady on YouTube

But despite the fact that it was on Leno, this is my favorite PJ Harvey performance. I like to imagine going back to 1993 and watching that as it happened, not knowing who she is, and being kind of confused.
posted by wondermouse at 5:11 PM on April 30, 2010


god I love her
posted by chococat at 5:26 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


TBH I'm not at all sure that first track works, but sound levels are always awful for music acts dragged into chat shows so maybe that's throwing things off.
posted by Artw at 5:56 PM on April 30, 2010


The more traditional one I like a lot better.
posted by Artw at 5:57 PM on April 30, 2010


...and I always love her accent.
posted by Artw at 5:58 PM on April 30, 2010


I saw her live in a small club in Seattle in the mid-90s, and that was an awesome show, despite the horrific opening act. That is all.
posted by maxwelton at 6:21 PM on April 30, 2010


I dunno... It must get kind of boring to do the same old same old year after year (like the Rolling Stones, for example). At least Polly Harvey is willing to experiment.

I hear what you're saying, and while I would certainly call this an experiment, I wouldn't call it 'progress'* so much. I have loved plenty of what PJH has done, but she's just left my sphere of interest in a big way here. Then again, I like Radiohead a whole lot, so fuck me.

*Many of you would, and that's cool, but it doesn't float my boat.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:48 PM on April 30, 2010


I'm not sure how much I would pay to see PJ Havey, Bjork and Lady Gaga team-up for a video

...singing backup for Patti Smith.
posted by hangashore at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


maxwelton, I also saw her in a small club in Seattle in the mid-90s, and the opening act were Moonshake, who were awesome. I also got to meet Polly that time in Seattle, which I'm grateful for. Nothing like getting to say to the people you admire those things that you think you might ever get a chance to.

This song is fantastic, I have yet to dislike (or, more importantly, be bored with) anything that she's done. I'm happy to follow wherever her mojo takes her, until she's a little old lady standing up on stage with a funny hat and an autoharp forty years from now.
posted by jokeefe at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2010


Nothing like getting to say to the people you admire those things that you think you might ever get a chance to.

Jesus, that's convoluted. Y'all know what I mean, though, right? I blame this cold, which I got in Seattle, coincidentally, last week.

posted by jokeefe at 6:51 PM on April 30, 2010


In further weird parenting news* my daughter now sings "big fish, little fish, swimming in the water!" when she's having her bath. Also one time while we were cleaning To Bring You My Love was playing in her room and she ran in there, shouted at both parents to stay out, and began bashing away on a toy piano.

* Believe me, I bore people to death with weird quirky tales about India and/or the cat far more in person. You lot have it lucky.
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought I had to stop liking her because she was dating Vincent Gallo, but apparently that's either over or never actually happened (according to him, they're "just friends"). So that's cool, then.

I was perturbed by the Gallo thing too, and I'm afraid that it's probably true. See her dedication of the song "The Darker Days of Me and Him". Oh well. You can't judge people's art by who they choose to get involved with.
posted by jokeefe at 6:54 PM on April 30, 2010


...or their stance on fox hunting. Hey, it's probably a West Country thing.
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on April 30, 2010


I have loved plenty of what PJH has done, but she's just left my sphere of interest in a big way here.

I do find that really odd statement to make on the basis of this one, brief, obviously skeletal performance being done under clearly less than ideal circumstances. Theoretically, you were down with the abrasive electronics on Is This Desire and the hyperdramatic Diamanda Galas moves on White Chalk, but this one little autoharp number is enough to put you off Polly for good?
posted by anazgnos at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2010


She's so honest and so wonderful.
posted by quietalittlewild at 7:41 PM on April 30, 2010


Back in the days she was the fifty foot queenie, I thought she was gonna rule the world.
posted by msali at 7:48 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


...this one little autoharp number is enough to put you off Polly for good?

I said 'plenty', not 'all'. And way back when I really, really liked PJH; but she's covered some kooky territory since then, and this video reminds me of a crazy street person in some very disconcerting ways. So, yeah, this one icky little video kind of pushed me over the edge with her, which is crushing, really. She used to be so fascinating to me.
posted by Pecinpah at 7:52 PM on April 30, 2010


I love her too. A powerful woman, full of music. She's great.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 PM on April 30, 2010


Yeah. In the 18 years since Dry came out, PJ Harvey hasn't really let me down once. I own all of the albums, a couple of DVDs, most of the singles, and I've seen her live 3 times. Not once.

I will certainly buy that issue of Zoetrope she does and I'll be buying her next album as soon as it is released, too. Sure the first clip's a little goofy and I can't honestly say, on first listen, that it even comes close to the middle of the pack if you put all of her songs in order from best to worst. So what. If her next album totally sucks it would be the first time. I trust this woman and I'll give it a shot.
posted by millions at 12:46 AM on May 1, 2010


Man, that Let England Shake, that's some avant-garde shit right there. Reminds me a bit of some old friends from the NY downtown avant scene of the 80s/90s, particularly vocalists like Shelley Hirsch or Catherine Jauniaux.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:10 AM on May 1, 2010


Am I dreaming, or wasn't there another thread a while back where people confused the autoharp with the harpsichord? Sigh... the general unfamiliarity with anything but the most common and pervasive-in-pop-music musical instruments is not surprising, I guess, but, it's just a little depressing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:15 AM on May 1, 2010


Am I dreaming, or wasn't there another thread a while back where people confused the autoharp with the harpsichord?

I get that ALL the TIME.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 1:55 AM on May 1, 2010


Haha! Yeah, I thought of you immediately, Karlos, watching that clip. You harpsichord player you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:30 AM on May 1, 2010


jokeefe: See her dedication of the song "The Darker Days of Me and Him".

The instrumental song "The End" (on Uh Huh Her) is "for Vincent Gallo" because he liked the song and encouraged her to include it on the album. He also helped her sequence the rest. I have never read anything that links "The Darker Days of Me and Him" with Gallo, but please correct me if I am wrong. In my opinion, "The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth" sounds most like him of all the songs on that album.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:01 AM on May 1, 2010


I don't like to see PJ straying into Joanna Newsom territory.
posted by missrachael at 6:26 AM on May 1, 2010


The autoharp reminds of 1970s Sunday school. And I don't really want to be reminded of 1970s Sunday school.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:13 AM on May 1, 2010


The autoharp is fine with me but the TMBG sample and the singalong is awkward city. Like I'm watching an unfortunate high school recital or something.

But who am I kidding, I'll probably buy the album anyways.
posted by chrominance at 7:44 AM on May 1, 2010


the TMBG sample

Try again.
posted by anazgnos at 7:58 AM on May 1, 2010


Oooooops.

Okay, the Four Lads sample and the singalong is awkward city, then!
posted by chrominance at 8:13 AM on May 1, 2010


Houyhnhnm, really? Thanks for that bit of information-- I'd jumped to conclusions, obviously.

she's covered some kooky territory since then, and this video reminds me of a crazy street person in some very disconcerting ways.

Not to rag on you personally, Pecinpah, but I dream of the day when a female musician can do anything even slightly idiosyncratic without being called crazy or kooky. See: Bjork.

One of the things I've always loved about her work-- particularly early on-- was what she was able to make out of the most elementary building blocks: a few chords on the guitar, plus her imagination. An autoharp is the most anti-virtuosic instrument there is, really, so it's the same thing: her imagination is all.
posted by jokeefe at 11:11 AM on May 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, Houyhnhnm, I'd completely misremembered which song was dedicated to Gallo on Uh Huh Her. Fallible memory, and all that.
posted by jokeefe at 11:27 AM on May 1, 2010


I love this strange beautiful bird so very much.
posted by inkytea at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2010


I'm not sure about the autoharp, but thanks for reminding me to listen to PJ again, Houyhnhnm. It's been awhile and I'd almost forgotten how much I like her.
posted by homunculus at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2010


wondermouse, excellent link. Thanks!

The only logical explanation for PJ Harvey is that she is an avatar of a very old soul. A mere human simply cannot exude that much presence.
posted by whuppy at 8:42 AM on May 4, 2010


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