The city is her new home, the sea is the one she crossed to get there from England. Critics and fans alike hailed this album, her fifth studio effort, as far better than her last. As noted above, each of her albums has a very different feel, and this one rejects the previous electronica experiments for a retro jangly guitar tone, often reminiscent of the British Invasion.
The lyrical content of the songs, however, could not be more contemporary, and this marks a huge step forward for Polly as a songwriter. She's no longer content to outline grand myths or assume the role of a fictional character. She states definitively: This is MY life, in this city, in this year, and I am in love. From a woman who's always hidden behind masks, this change is electric. Though this is certainly not a concept album, you can draw a larger story by combining narrative and emotional threads from various songs.
All of Ms. Harvey's previous records opened with quiet moans, be they seductive or mournful. But the opening guitar chords of Big Exit ring out and revolve like a siren, and she yells as the drums stomp fear into you. Something is wrong, deeply and unsolvably, and for once it's bigger than the epic problems she aspires to. Is it that this is a city where cops can shoot innocent black men and go unpunished? Or is it something unknown on the horizon, more felt than seen?
Back when it came out, this album stunned me by tangentially mentioning subjects I was at that point obsessed with, chaos magic and car crashes among them. But what's far more chilling is the way it perfectly outlines the psychic landscape here these days: Helicopters, kamikaze, collapse, forgetting yourself in someone else's arms.
Guitars:Polly Jean Harvey