Updated: Feb 21
equality factor: timelessly empowering tracks
producer: Steve Albini
based in: England
Since several years ago, the vinyl boom exploded across all the markets of the industry, no matter the genre, no matter the technical knowledge of who buys the record. Today, most of the musical releases are edited in vinyl format, however, this is something that generates many controversies. There are people who run away when they see the label of "remastered", while others simply buy vinyl for a romantic matter. I personally think that the way most people listen to music nowadays (with headphones or small computer speakers) leads to very low quality, and although I'm a music lover, a fan of vinyl, I'm also part of that group at many times. And although the tangible experience of holding an authentic vinyl from a different era is irreplaceable, I am in favor of the re-editions and the new releases in this format. I believe that really they are necessary not only to fulfill an aesthetic and sonic purpose but also for cultural reasons. I am aware and I am in favor of the fact that although the work has already been done before - and obviously there is no point in changing it - restoring it in a different format adds a new layer to the music experience. And that is the case today: an album released almost three decades ago, which had never contemplated this format before, was re-released on vinyl today.
I'm talking about "Rid of Me" (1993), the second studio album of the English singer Polly Jean Harvey, an album that today is reissued along with the collection of "4-Track Demos" written and recorded at Harvey’s home from 1991 to 1992. Both releases are part of an extensive campaign that will reissue in the vinyl format during the next 12 months the complete catalog of PJ Harvey.
“I know what is good music for me. It’s long-lasting. It’s always pushing the boundaries. It’s always attempting things that haven’t been attempted before or trying to provoke a reaction, It’s got to be stimulating. “
From the beginning of her career, Polly was an unconventional artist, not only for the time but for the history of English rock. She proudly advocated this since her first album "Dry" was released in 1991 (also reissued last month in vinyl format), on which she published songs like "Dress", where she talked about the need to dress to please a man, or "Sheela-Na. Gig" where she talks about Celtic pagan goddesses with giant vulvas. Clearly from that moment on, something began to change in the music.
"I'm always looking for extremes in things. That's what I try to do in my music, push something as far as you can take it. Until it becomes almost unacceptable."
I chose to write about the reissue of "Rid of Me" to talk about PJ Harvey not only because she heavily influenced my life on a musical level, but also because this album, along with the first one, brought a series of works that made her one of the most indispensable, empowered and insatiable women of the international rock scene until today. A woman who formed an artistic identity through commitment and integrity, transforming these two female factors into the integral line of her career. A woman who made every album of her career to her liking in the way she thought best, regardless of the demands of the industry. And a clear example of this is what happened with "Rid of Me": a mad jumble of envy, admiration, rage, and resentment, an album with a raw and avant-garde sound, one on which all her songs are in the first person, an album that placed it at number three on the British sales charts, an album that managed to lead the radio charts with the uncomfortable beauty of its lyrics, songs from an album that true to its style, escape to the definitions.
This album positioned her in a new place for women in rock. Keep in mind that we are talking about 1993, a time where all that was sung was a media war, where religion censored artists like Madonna; a time where misogyny lyrics circulated on the radio charts with overwhelming freedom. Those were the same charts that played PJ Harvey's songs that were imposed on men but went unnoticed, songs that at the same time were heard by millions of women who interpreted that as a sign that they could all do that rock. Among the hits of the album was "Man-Size", the song with which she came to MTV, a lyric in which Polly caricatures macho grandiosity, playing the role of a leather-booted thug who struggles to "get the girl out of my head".
“I’d much rather risk falling flat on my face experimenting with weird things that maybe people won’t like”
Another immense and empowering factor is that Polly always had complete control over her image, she has never been fooled, let alone sold out to the system. If there's one thing that always stood out about her, it's that she was never on the side of the mainstream. This led her to gain the respect of the whole industry - even in the most machismo-infested of times. Sexuality is also a very important factor in her music, both in the interpretative part and in the creative part, only she has the power to relate her records with sex, to say otherwise would be to deny part of her essence.
PJ Harvey has set a new pattern for women because, although it seems contradictory, the opposite of the commercial made her into a star. The re-release of her sophomore album "Rid Of Me" therefore does not simply offer a new sonic experience. It also put her ahead-of-her time's lyrics and artistry into a different context, once again adding to the empowerment movement of womxn in the music industry.