Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Journey with a Singer, Part 4: Dance Hall at Louse Point (1996)

After the huge success of To Bring You My Love, Polly reacted rather typically by doing something defiantly uncommercial, something that without that success under her belt she’d never have got away with. Her collaboration with her friend John Parish imagined an end-of-the-line sort of place where lost souls gathered to relate their melancholy memories against some strikingly avant-garde musical and vocal accompaniment. Her determination not to market the record as ‘a PJ Harvey album’ meant it slipped past a lot of people, including me. I found out about it from my friends Sadie and David, who’d shared that astonishing night in the Chatham flat, and who went to see it performed, with a dance company, in Oxford, a show that left most critics bemused. When I got around to hearing it, I found Louse Point hard going, although with the passage of time I’ve come to realise how clever and interesting it is (that would be the case with Harvey and Parish’s next collaboration 13 years later, too). There was no missing the dark glee of the piece though, not when it included such songs as ‘Taut’, in which Polly hisses maniacally in character ‘Even the Son of God had to die, my darling!’, more than once.

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