CMJ - Essential - This Week's Best New Music October 23rd, 2000
Listening to Ms. Polly Jean Harvey cite Big Apple landmarks as she simultaneously steps up her Patti Smith affectations, it becomes clear that the city these stories were inspired by is undoubtedly New York.
Thank goodness it's less Giuliani's Gotham and more the bustling streets of fire that inspired Patti and Lou and Burroughs and Mondrian. Like those stylists, Harvey's art has always been about grand searches for timeless truths in the every-day grime of real lives she sees as mythic undertakings unto themselves.
Only the contexts and the sounds behind her tales change. So, Stories paints these examinations of love, lust, death and birth as PJ's urban blues - by measure spare, contemplative and as explosive as anything she's done in years, just like the city that inspired them.
With Rob Ellis' percussion running rings around switchblade guitars and Harvey's banshee wail, "Kamikaze" is a two minute shrapnel burst. "Big Exit" is a song-portrait of a Cassavetes Avenger Goddess, a woman so strong she shames Lillith-putians simply by being. Which, in a way, is what all of Stories does, leaving even the duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke ("The Mess We're In") feeling like an afterthought to the albums Avenue A Revisited vision, one as timeless as the sea of humanity that helped inspire it.