A Woman a Man Walked By

PJ Harvey and John Parish collaborate again on a raw and confrontational album.

Unlike their first go-round in '96, with the celebrated Dance Hall at Louse Point, PJ Harvey and John Parish's bold new collaborative effort, A Woman a Man Walked By, may not draw in casual listeners--most of these narrative songs are shockingly raw and often confrontational in their bursts of beauty and fatalism. Lead track 'Black-Hearted Love,' reminiscent of mid-'90s Sonic Youth, provides an access point into an album that is, typical of most anything associated with Pj Harvey's velvet-for-flesh aesthetic, impossible to ignore or imitate. Parish's stamp is apparent in the stripped-down, East-meets-West stringed instruments that anchor most of the arrangements. 'Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen' is driven by a box-spring sitar; 'Cracks in the Canvas' features an eerily amorphous Nashville-via-Nanking mandolin. Whether unleashing a profanity-leaden tirade in a mocking growl that is both hilarious and disturbing on the title track, or voicing the most memorable barks heard on a rock record since Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush on 'Pig Will Not,' Harvey's voice is a flexible bullet. Even the sweetly pastoral 'Passionless, Pointless,' bouyed by swelling strings evocative of a lost '50s soundtrack, conveys emotional urgency and, like the rest of the album, is ultimately as envious of objectivity as heartbreak itself.

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