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Oh yay. Dance Hall at Louse Point is one of my favorite PJ Harvey releases, partly because it somehow has always reminded me of a less-cacophonous (though still really noisy!) Sonic Youth record except with someone who can actually carry a tune. Oh yeah, there are tunes also. I don’t like Sonic Youth, sorry, and part of why “Bull in the Heather” is my favorite SY song is that the music sounds incredibly sexy and also there’s a LUDICROUS video wherein Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna annoys the shit out of everyone, foreshadowing! (Full disclosure: Kathleen Hanna was one of my teenage heroes and I hugged her once, she is tiny)

Dance Hall is one of her least-lauded records, which may be due to the fact that it’s not a “proper” PJ Harvey release but rather a collaboration with John Parish. It was also deemed a slight placeholder between To Bring You My Love, which destroyed everybody, and Is This Desire? The latter was seen as a slight disappointment to both critics and fans, focusing less on the guitar-based catharsis of her predecessors for electronic-based storytelling (the same reaction would meet 2007’s White Chalk, except this time with piano, and I daresay both Is This Desire? and White Chalk are remarkably better records than those in between them).

In some ways, you can see Dance Hall as the bridge between To Bring You My Love and the rest of her work, a real turning point in a career of shifts and morphs and left turns. While Dance Hall includes the blues-based structures of TBYML, it eschews its archetypes–as well as the sui generis volatility of her first two records–in favor of character studies, which would directly influence the songs on Is This Desire? Perhaps writing only the lyrics freed Harvey, as Parish wrote all the music, to match someone else’s muses.

The record also contains one of her best-ever (seriously like top three) vocal performances in “Taut,” a Satanically deranged monologue of obsessed desire delivered over sexy churning noisy guitars (this must be where the Sonic Youth thing came about) until the chorus blasts off into the stratosphere of desperate religious fervor, but you know it’s just cynical and futile in the end.

Anyway, if I can expect more of that then yes please thank you Miss Polly.


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