Off the scene for three years, P] HARVEY is back with a new album, a film and a gig in Edinburgh.
Hallelujah. Words: Jonathan Trew
WHEN Pl HARVEY PLAYS THE JAFFA CAKE as part of the Flux festival, it will be the first time that she has played Scotland in three years. The last time she performed here it was at the Barrowland in Glasgow. She took to the stage in a shimmering red dress, her stark, angular face highlighted by black hair and harsh red lipstick. Howling her way through the swamp blues of her album To Bring You My Love, she wielded a thick staff which she thumped in time to her testament tales of insufferable loss and worse revenge. The effect was mesmerising, almost otherworldly. -
Harvey has always ‘ been a fascinating character. Her early albums were raw, angry affairs that were completely at odds with the few faltering interviews which she gave. In these reluctant exchanges, she came across as someone who was painfully shy, private and quiet. The early interviews always hinted at or skirted around some event or person in Harvey's life that had caused her a great deal of sorrow. She appeared slightly strange and sad, a wilting wallflower who turned into a banshee on stage.
She was different. She was never part of the music business merry-go- round. She moved to London and
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lasted a year before returning to the peace and solitude of her home in the West Country. She was the rock star without any of the usual trappings. When she started seeing Nick Cave, another intensely private and enigmatic singer, the two of them became the first couple of gothic rock, the living embodiment of the dangerous and doomed romance that features so prominently in both their works. They duetted together on 'Henry Lee', Cave’s version of a traditional song in which the heroine kills her lover.
Naturally, it all ended in tears, but not before Cave had released The Boatman’s Call. This was an album which contained the songs ‘West Country Girl' and 'Black Hairf, with their lyrics about a former lover with long black hair who leaves Cave to take a train to the west. Art and real life. Real life and art. The blurring of the boundaries between the two seemed very poignant. For the incurably romantic and fanzine obsessives, it was terribly tragic and, better yet, true.
Apart from a handful of low key dates around the release of Dance Hall At Louse Point, the album she was jointly responsible for along with her long time collaborator and sometime
'I wish I didn't feel so deeply about every- thing. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be any limit to what I feel abOuL whether it's a lover or a brand of teabagf
band member John Parish, this Edinburgh gig is the first large scale public appearance Harvey has made since 1995. In between times, she has made her first foray into filmmaking, taking a part in the Hal Hartley movie The Book Of Life. She plays the part of Magdalena, the former biblical whore who becomes a believer. Religious iconography and the themes of redemption never seem too far away in Harvey's work.
Film aside, she has also completed her fifth album, Is This Desire?. Those who have heard it say that it is very good, more polished yet deeper than her previous work. Just don’t expect many laughs. In a recent interview with Dazed And Confused, Harvey states, 'I wish I didn't feel so deeply about everything. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any. limit to what I feel about, whether it's a lover or a brand of teabag. Sometimes I wish I could let things ride a bit more.’
PJ Harvey (Fringe) .laffa Cake (Venue 7) 668 2019, Tue 25 Aug, 8.30pm, £10. The Book Of Life (Film Festival) Cameo, 623 8030. Sat 22, 8pm; Cameo, Wed 26, 10.30pm; Filmhouse, Fri 28. 7pm, £6.50 (£4). Is This Desire is released on Mon 29 Sep.