Monday, February 28, 2011

PJ Harvey & John Parish-Dance Hall at Louse Point

Originally Written and Posted at on 4/21/09.

Following the release of 1995's To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey was riding high on a wave of critical acclaim and massive attention from the press. Along with a 10-month world tour including opening for the alt-rock band Live in the U.S. for 3 months in which Harvey sported strange clothing and makeup for her look. Harvey was becoming overwhelmed with the attention that she received as she turned to longtime friend John Parish who co-produced To Bring You My Love as well as being a former band mate of hers before she became famous. The two decided to collaborate on a project in which Harvey would go under her full name of Polly Jean Harvey for the record entitled Dance Hall at Louse Point.

Produced by PJ Harvey, John Parish, and Bad Seeds multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, Dance Hall at Louse Point is an album that takes PJ Harvey's love of experimentation by taking on John Parish's art-blues sound with Harvey's blues-influenced vocals with lyrics delving into different themes that she hadn't explored. It's a record that has Harvey going back to basics of sorts but without going into the rocking sounds of early albums. Along with a cover of a Peggy Lee classic written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Dance Hall at Louse Point is an excellent album that shows Harvey's versatility as a lyricist, musician, and vocalist with help from John Parish.

The album opener Girl is an instrumental track with washy, scratchy yet somber guitar riffs by PJ Harvey and John Parish. The first song Rope Bridge Crossing is an acoustic blues track with twangy, sliding guitar riffs and smooth, sweep-like beats as John Parish leads the way with his guitar. PJ Harvey sings the song in a smooth, quiet vocal with dark lyrics as she goes into a wailing vocal for its chorus filled with imagery-laden lyrics reminiscent of the blues. City Of No Sun is a mid-tempo track with swift, washy guitar riffs from Parish with Harvey singing vocals with lyrics of love as it plays to a smooth, somberly vocal. Then Parish's guitar becomes intense with Harvey going into wailing vocals that becomes quiet and loud again. That Was My Veil is an acoustic ballad with Parish's smooth, rhythm guitar track with Harvey's calm, somber vocals with lyrics of longing and sadness. With its simple presentation that includes a harmonium keyboard performed by Harvey, it's a song that unveils Harvey's vocal range and work on other instruments.

Urn With Dead Flowers In A Drained Pool is an upbeat song with Parish's swirling arpeggio riffs with Harvey's smooth, wailing vocals with melancholic, morose lyrics. Even as it features thundering beats on some parts, it's Parish's guitar playing with sliding riffs and Harvey's wailing vocals in the chorus that really shine. Civil War Correspondent is a chugging rocker with driving riffs and warbling rhythms that lead the song led by Mick Harvey's production that becomes quiet. With Mick Harvey on a soothing organ, PJ Harvey sings in a cool, eerie vocal with dark lyrics about the horrors of war as Parish plays a ringing, blues-laden guitar near its coda. Taut is a track that starts off with Harvey's vocals singing atmospherically before Parish's intense, washy guitar strumming comes in with clanging beats arrive with Harvey's whispering vocals. With its dark, eerie lyrics, it becomes a louder song with Harvey's wailing vocals and Mick Harvey's full production that plays to the song's unconventional structure.

Un Cercle Autour Du Soleil is a track with thumping bass beats and cymbal clangs that plays along to John Parish's washy, dreamy guitar track. With Harvey's smooth, somber vocals, she sings lyrics of sadness and nostalgia to Parish's ringing guitar that becomes more twangy with its blues-laden guitar work. Heela is a loud, blues-laden song with wailing guitar slides and thundering drums which is followed by a wobbly bass line. Led by Parish's unique yet intense arrangements which includes a wailing organ spurt, it's PJ Harvey's vocals with her growling vocal style and dark, creepy lyrics as Parish sings along with her.

Next is a cover of Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is? with an accompanying, wailing organ as Harvey sings in a spoken word style before going into full-singing mode. With her calm vocal style, it's a unique cover that plays to a dance hall style of thumping, hollow beats and a simple organ with Harvey leading the way with her vocals. The album's title track is an upbeat instrumental with striking guitars with loud, charging beats for a rollicking romp of guitars, bass, and drums which includes clanging beats. The last track is Lost Fun Zone which is a one-and-a-half-minute song with low-mixed guitar tracks with ringing melodies and Harvey's wailing falsetto vocals filled with desperate lyrics about death. With a chorus that includes wailing guitar slides and hollow beats to close the album.

Released in the fall of 1996, the album was expected to match the heights of To Bring You My Love. Instead, low-key promotion and PJ Harvey choosing to go under her full name made the album a commercial disappointment though critically, it got good reviews. While Harvey and John Parish decided to do a few shows in early 1997, Parish did most of the promotional work which didn't help matters due to the fact that Harvey was burned out from all of the work to promote To Bring You My Love. Around the same time, Harvey was at work on her fourth studio release which would be her most personal work to date.

While Dance Hall at Louse Point doesn't have the consistent quality or strong material of her other albums, it's still an excellent and interesting album from PJ Harvey which features great work from John Parish. Though it might be considered minor work from Harvey as it's really a collaboration, it's still got some songs and performances that play to Harvey's talents as a vocalist. One of the record's big strong points in revealing the talents of John Parish who is a brilliant musician which is what Harvey wanted to show and succeeded. In the end, Dance Hall at Louse Point is an interesting yet very good album from PJ Harvey and John Parish.

(C) thevoid99 2011

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