PJ Harvey
Is This Desire?


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jake C. Taylor USER (90 Reviews)
September 6th, 2008 | 20 replies | 10,136 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: PJ Harvey's own personal favourite. It's understandable why.

In the opening course of “Angelene” it’s immediately clear that grunge-girl Polly Jean Harvey’s Is This Desire? is a much more sombre and remotely driven album than her previous outings. Where she once cruised to the outer reaches of the globe to represent her ideas, she’s retraced her footsteps, and taken the other road in the fork. With Harvey so intertwined within composition, Mark Ellis (better known as Flood) was given the prosperity to derive a new sound to another ground breaking album from one of the best female artists during the 90s. You’d come to immediately think that perhaps there may be some kind of sign of tension, or confliction between each side of the story here. Thankfully, each appears to embrace the others sound. It’s intimate, clever, dark, scary, solemn and full of emotional layering from both parties.

When it comes down to layering, no one does it better then Flood. Remember his stretch with Trent Reznor on Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral? Later on, the relationship with Harvey during 1995’s To Bring You My Love was still in its primal infancy, and meant she was still predominantly behind the sound wheel. Here, Flood is perceptibly well within the bounds of contemporary musical existence through his own representation of defining the album’s overall sound. A sound that’s mostly embodied by pungent distorted bass lines, haunting looped drums and other electronic hooks to attempt to draw in the listener. It suggests her most dense release to this point, and at times strikes at the heart of industrial genre itself, despite there being a distinct value of driven dirty rock through her compositional clarity.

Still, the album presents some of her most simplistic and original musical material ever, given that it’s often bordered by opacity in the production. Every instalment yields a similar approach, sombre and thoughtful, but each has its own individual mood. Sometimes her aching voice pulls you in with immense gravity only to be cut short by a sudden fade out as the music filters into empty air, either suddenly, or slowly, depending on how the music initially travelled. The effect can be quite startling the first time around, but becomes part of the experience as future listens take place. Not all songs use this method though, most in fact play apart the idea of creeping in and out of melodic entwinement between varied sounds, such as “The River”, and “The Garden”, each using similar methods of syncopated piano lines, passionate ear-close vocals, and reverberating drum loops. Others are close relatives of the more grungy medium witnessed earlier, as in “Joy” and “The Sky Lit Up”, the most striking being “A Perfect Day Elise”.

The album’s difference from others however would be nothing without the expertise and natural talent of Harvey. Where other individuals (and even groups) often try to dominate their thoughts with propositions of artistic evolution, thus often producing contrived nonsense, Harvey for the most part just kept on doing what made her happy or sad or… whatever. Whether she’s faint or strong, the results are usually promisingly positive, and Is This Desire? is no exception to this. For some fans it will be their all time favourite from her due to its individuality, for others it will be not as highly cherished as previous albums, mainly because of the confusion between choices of great things that have already passed.



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user ratings (150)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
BallsToTheWall
September 6th 2008


44294 Comments


Whoa, ladys been around for awhile. I have her newest album but unfortunately haven't spent much time jamming to it. Thanks for the reminder though, good revew.

Digging: Tiamat - Clouds

AtavanHalen
September 6th 2008


17927 Comments


Excellent. Want to hear this.

jrowa001
September 7th 2008


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my 4th fav album of hers. good review.

charlesfishtitz
September 7th 2008


784 Comments


album rules

ChaosTheory
September 13th 2008


102 Comments


You may be one of the biggest dickheads on sputnik, but at least you can write very good reviews.

rasputin
September 13th 2008


14541 Comments


Who taylormemer? He's hardly a dickhead.

taylormemer
September 13th 2008


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[QUOTE=stringtheory]You may be one of the biggest dickheads on sputnik[/QUOTE]
Cool.

AtavanHalen
September 13th 2008


17927 Comments


You may be one of the biggest dickheads on sputnik, but at least you can write very good reviews.

Aww, jealous are we?

robin
Emeritus
September 13th 2008


4248 Comments


who is chaostheory? :/

AtavanHalen
September 13th 2008


17927 Comments


Me in troll form obvz

ChaosTheory
September 13th 2008


102 Comments


lol

ChaosTheory
September 23rd 2008


102 Comments


"Aww, jealous are we?"

I actually meant it as a compliment. He is not here to make friends, he is here to write reviews. And he writes excellent reviews at that.

Piglet
November 6th 2009


4654 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually meant it as a compliment. He is not here to make friends, he is here to write reviews. And he writes excellent reviews at that.

what the hell?

also I just realised i have this, listening to this now.

Fluorine
December 1st 2009


104 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pretty much my favourite album. PJ should be very proud of herself.

DutchDevotee
August 23rd 2012


37 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

PJ pretty much couldn't do anything wrong for me up to and including this album. Why did I stop listening to her? Need to pick up my addiction to her, starting with 'Is this desire?'. I know what I'll be doing when I have some real spare time.

ExcentrifugalForz
September 1st 2013


1723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This and Rid of Me are the two PJ albums I keep around.

jefflebowski
September 1st 2013


8242 Comments


to bring you my love?

Digging: Brian Eno and Karl Hyde - High Life

ExcentrifugalForz
September 1st 2013


1723 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good but not my fave

jefflebowski
September 1st 2013


8242 Comments


fair. personally prefer dry and let england shake to this but it's still way underrated

ArsMoriendi
March 26th 2014


4260 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love this album. It's my 2nd favorite after To Bring You My Love

Digging: PJ Harvey - White Chalk



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