CD Review: PJ Harvey & John Parish — A Woman a Man Walked By

PJ Harvey & John Parish
A Woman a Man Walked By

By Eileen Tilson

Polly Jean Harvey is an artist that you pledge your
allegiance to, are secretly scared of, don’t quite understand, but still find
yourself diving into her music to find the hidden meanings. She is a modern day
Caravaggio; enigmatic, fascinating,
rebellious and dangerous.
Although it’s
only been a year and a half since her last solo project White Chalk, it
has been 13 years since PJ reconnected with her dancing partner John Parish to
create their latest gothic waltz, A Woman A Man Walked By. The couple was
reunited after Harvey discovered a cassette tape with a stripped down version of
“Black Hearted Lover,” that the two had written years prior. This struck the
creative chord, and the two decided to make a love child again. 

Parish composed all of the music on the album, with
Harvey contributing her very unique thrashing poetry. She stops midway through
"Black Hearted Lover," the warped love song that opens her latest album, and
asks, "Who would suspect me of this rapture?" She then goes on to assure her
lover that “I volunteer my soul for murder.”

The English singer spends
the rest of the album keeping that promise, tearing through songs built on
thrashing punk and gothic back-roads Americana. Harvey has admitted to drawing
inspiration from Nick Cave, and on the disc's title track, she approximates one
of his rants, dressing down a "woman-man" with a "chicken-liver heart made of
chicken-liver parts." "Pig Will Not" is as devastating a piece of gnarled pop, a
stomping sermon that finds Harvey squealing and barking like a wounded

Just like albums before, A Woman a Man Walked By 
will scare people; this is not an album for those looking for something they can
tap their toes to, although still strangely accessible. Harvey is a tornado of
anger, lunacy, and regret that somehow still manages to leave a rainbow after
her storm.


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