Let it bleed
The anticipation surrounding P. J. Harvey’s second album conﬁrms just how big an impact the band has made already. Nick Duerden spoke to the reluctant star, Polly.
When Radio One’s Jakki Brambles, Britain‘s, ahem, ‘favourite‘ female jock took a week off recently, the nation didn‘t so much mourn as celebrate euphorically. Keeping her seat warm, as they say, were the venerable buttocks of John Peel. whose daily musical diet consisted not so much of 2 Unlimited and Shaggy, as P. J. Harvey and. well, P. J. Harvey. Every day. For an entire week.
And now, a short time later. Polly Jean Harvey, 23, cynical. unrelenting and detenninedly distant, is a bona ﬁde Top 30 star with the ferocious ‘50ft Queenie‘, the ﬁrst cut from her second album, Rid Of Me. Will wonders never cease?
‘Sometimes even I find It hard to listen to. I mean, be honest, lt’s hardly easy listening, is it?’
‘To be totally honest,‘ she says, while deftly rolling herself a cigarette between two elegant fingers. ‘I would have thought my music wouldn 't have been the kind of music a lot of people would choose to listen to.
‘Sometimes even 1 ﬁnd it hard to listen to. i mean. be honest. it’s hardly-.easy listening, is it? But I do think I sound different. The sound I make, the songs I write . . .just different, .you know.‘
Polly Harvey is holding court today against her wishes. interviews are not her thing; these are situations she has to be implored, repeatedly. to undertake. and if you are lucky — only if you are lucky — she‘ll concede. Ever the reluctant damsel.
But Rid OfMe demands exposure. it needs explaining. It‘s a ravishing, visceral record, an unholy racket that seethes with feminist aggression and conﬁrms its author as the most relevant artiste of her era. Sod Riot Gml, Polly Harvey does more for Women In Rock in one song than Huggy Bear could manage in an entire career.
‘I just find it very difﬁcult talking to people,’ she says, her eyes directed towards her sixteen—hole boots. ‘Not just journalists, but people in general. That‘sjust how I am. I don‘t want to be in the papers and i don‘t want to see my picture in magazines. I just want to make music,‘ she shrugs unapologetically. ‘lfl had my own way, I‘d never do another interview again — ever. But yes, I do know that the two go hand in hand, so I know it’s something l‘ve got to endure.‘
But. whatever the cost, she insists on doing things her own way, regardless of the dangers of conducting herself in such an aloof, Marlene Dietrich-like manner. ‘I know it seems that l‘m far too precious
and even arrogant by not talking to people, as if l’m some kind of pn'ma donna or something.‘ she admits. ‘but l‘m willing to allow people to think whatever they like as long as it means I can retain my sanity. And if people get the wrong idea because of it, then that‘s just unfortunate.‘
Talk to her about the subject matter of her songs (titles like ‘Rub 'Til lt Bleeds‘, lyrics like ‘Lick my legs/l'm onﬁre‘). and Polly Harvey will suddenly develop an unnatural interest in her roll-up. as if it possesses answers to all the questions she‘d rather avoid.
Persist further and she‘ll admit, no less, to wanting to expand the boundaries of musical discomfort and aural aggression. And then she‘ll smile a wicked smile that suggests she’s playing with you all along. All part ofthis manipulation thing she‘s got going with the media.
In the past year, she may well have had a tough time growing up in public, even admitting a nervous breakdown or two. but P. J. Harvey, the woman and the band. are fast growing into an astute and accomplished entity, the importance of which we are only just beginning to realise.
‘I like the ability to provoke a variety of responses,’ she muses teasingly. ‘And what really interests me now is just how far I can push things until it all becomes really uncomfortable.‘
P. J. Harvey play The Plaza, Glasgow on Tue I 8.
t-ez‘ Stephen vm, Polly Harvey. Ellis
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: JAMES TAYLOR OUARTET O FAT LADY SINGS 0 WORLD PARTY
The List 7—20 May 1993 43