If you read any top 10 lists of 2000, you’re familiar with this title. It only made one Hybrid writer’s top 10, though. Well, we always like to knock a trend. Expectations were running pretty high for this humble reviewer and now, after listening, I wonder what I’m missing. Sure, Stories From The City… is a good album, but it does the worst thing an album can possibly do, which is leave a listener feeling indifferent. Once everybody gets over their fascination with how cool the anti-hero PJ Harvey is, it wouldn’t be completely unfair to say that this album offers NOTHING new.
If distortion makes a guitar gritty, then I guess that would make Harvey’s guitar work gritty. Two things that are guaranteed when listening to PJ Harvey: 1) good guitar work that is heavy on distortion 2) yelling. What do you know? We get this right away with the opening song "Big Exit." The lyrics are contrived, but the tune of the song saves it from being a total waste of time.
"Good Fortune", the next song, again suffers the fate of almost being lost to one of Harvey’s "traits." She sings long shutters at the end of every verse. Annoying? Yes, indeed, and if it wasn’t for having a melody filled with hooks, I probably would’ve chucked this disc out the window.
When she’s not intentionally "fucking it up", Harvey’s songs come out sounding like bad soundtrack music. As is the case on "A Place Called Home" and "You Said Something." Anyone who doesn’t see the parallels between Harvey’s sound and that of Sarah McLachlan is closing their eyes. Both are on the same spectrum, trying to be so much of something that no one is a part of. Contrived fem anger is just as cliché as contrived fem sappiness. In addition, Stories From The City… is trying to be an album of our times so hard that it misses the target completely. Harvey fails to identify with anything other than studio musicians, Thom Yorke and New York imagery. What about the other 99.9999% of the people buying this album? You can’t speak to a world that you’re not a part of, not mentioning trying to write a "definitive" album for that world.
A top 10 album? Sure, if you’re a PJ Harvey fan. But if you’ve always questioned the fanatical appeal of Harvey, Stories From The City… won’t rock your world. In fact, it will only make you wonder that much more.
- Big Exit
- Good Fortune
- A Place Called Home
- One Line
- Beautiful Feeling
- The Whores Hustle and the The Hustlers Whore
- This Mess We’re In
- You Said Something
- This Is Love
- Horses In My Dreams
- We Float