I am currently in the mood to just punch the world and keep punching. I just wish I had a treacherous ex-lover to give this state of mind some kind of justification, especially listening to an album with the power and wounded rage of Rid Of Me. PJ Harvey even managed to unnerve her seasoned producer Steve Albini (a man who is basically a by-word for vicious fleshless rock about subjects you’re scared to think about).
At the time, she was recovering from a nervous breakdown and ate nothing but potatoes during the recording. If any record captures this unhinged nervous collapse, Rid Of Me does, right down to the still extraordinary cover, which was taken in total darkness save for the split second flash that illuminated the final result. One Melody Maker journalist was in her car when she heard the title track’s final climax for the first time – she crashed. When she rasps “Lick my legs, I’m on fire”, there’s not an uncurled toe in the house. Those only familiar with 2010′s brilliant ‘Let England Shake’ may be disappointed, but if you’re a fan of Nirvana’s most difficult and abrasive moments, you may have found your go-to record for when that special someone crushes all your hopes and dreams. It’s an exceptionally difficult record – she actually sounds like she’s been physically injured on ‘Legs’, but she carries it through, right to the end when she ponders “…but I could kill you instead.” It’s not all exorcism of demons though…
OK, just kidding, it’s got demons coming out the wazoo (or wherever it is that demons come out of), but the songs themselves are so great that it’s not a chore to witness it. ’50ft Queenie’ borders on actually being fun – the hooks throughout are fantastic from the bellows of “Don’t you wish you never, never met her” on the title track, to that nauseous punch-drunk riff on ‘Dry’. Plus, Steve Albini does his usual brilliant job of making the guitar strings sound like wreathes of barbed wire. It’s even dead catchy a lot of the time, like on ’50ft Queenie, Man Size and Hook, despite the thrilling unpolished sandpaper-and-steel rawness of it all. You’d be mistaken if you think ‘Rid Of Me’ is a victim’s diatribe – the only victim here is whichever sad-sack dumped her. So fellas, the moral of the story is, never break PJ Harvey’s heart. She might make an amazing album about you, but it will make you wish you were dead.
For fans of… Nirvana, Pixies, Slint, Big Black, Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers.
–Joe Anthony Hill