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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
PJ Harvey
White Chalk
Island

Rating: 5.6/10 ?


October 8, 2007
What is it about the piano that yields such specific expectations? Maybe the naked plink inspires solitude, the hovering echo demands proper spacing. But from Kate Bush to Tori Amos to "Chopsticks," the great, glistening elephant-teeth machine only competes with a marching snare drum as arguably the most attention-getting solo instrument. It attracts solo compositions and solo performers (had the Boredoms assembled 77 pianists to bang away in Brooklyn Bridge Park, that would've truly been something to write home about). Unless you're Jerry Lee Lewis or jazz (but then, jazz gets to break every musical rule ever), you're solo, chump. Not surprisingly, few bands gravitate toward piano, and when they do, it's pretty nude; is there a single Coldplay song with the rest of the band involved in the first two minutes? It was only a matter of time before Ben Folds' actual "five" decided to leave him alone with his narcissistic piano-pounding. Polly Jean Harvey, however, I didn't see coming.

Harvey used to like breaking rules. It doesn't get more subversive than screaming "You bend! O-ver! Casanova!" in your best strap-on war cry with Steve Albini shoveling shit onto your guitars. Or naming your first major label single after a particularly vagina-centric fertility symbol. Keep in mind, 1992 was pre-F(Ph)airs both Lilith and Liz. And with the benefit of hindsight, we can see neither Alanis (who?) nor Britney ever came close. Nor did Tori Amos, whose tacky influence is all too apparent in White Chalk's second track, the cathedral-lighting "Dear Darkness." If you couldn't tell from that title, or others like "Broken Harp," "Silence," and, gulp, "The Piano," this is where Harvey goes off the bonkers-not-actually-bonkers train like Michael Stipe before her. The demure thing finds her trying to erect new paths, getting lost, and finding herself back behind 1993 again.

Her last album, Uh Huh Her was par for her: great songs with grunting guitar, ballads that actually haunt, and a rough new production style, her own. Sonically, it was a retrospective, recovering bases her career's already seen, but why not, they're still fresh. And I hope she goes back to them if this is the most she can think to do anymore. Worth salvaging: the howling opener "The Devil," the creepy transylvania fanfare "Grow Grow Grow," and the only thing here worthy of an actual great Harvey record, "When Under Ether," proving she can still do blues no wrong. But I can't think of another album by a talent so great wearing out its welcome well before its mere 33 minutes are up. Short indulgences are still indulgences, and when the title track tries for some banjo and harmonica a la Ghost of Tom Joad, you may not be awake to notice what a bland regression it is.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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