Picks and Pans Review: Rid of Me

updated 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

P.J. Harvey

With this second album, Polly Jean Harvey's bare-bones rock trio faces the daunting challenge of pleasing the fickle and ultrahip crowd that lionized her first album, Dry (1992), and also winning a wider audience that isn't necessarily clamoring for the emotionally naked and sonically scabrous self-explorations of a very bold young woman. This time, P.J. Harvey has made a brave, fascinating record that retains the nervous intensity of the first album while proving that Harvey's early success, like that of Nirvana, was no fluke.

Appropriately enough, Steve Albini, the noise-loving producer of Nirvana's controversial and eagerly awaited next album, was chosen as producer. He basically seems to have put Harvey's band in front of the microphones and let them go at it, and the strategy works. In a deeper and more assured voice than before, Harvey whispers, bellows, pleads and exults as the guitars and drums throb and crash. The undiluted sound of punk is perfect for Harvey's nearly deranged dramatizations of anguish, anger, joy, confusion and panic. In "Rid of Me" the singer not only refuses to accept rejection but enslaves the rejecter with erotic servitude. "Dry" is a brutally frank complaint about sexual selfishness, but Harvey proves that she also has a wild sense of humor in "50Ft Queenie," a female riposte to every heavy-metal male boast. On these songs and others, the band swings and surprises, making rough art that bears repeated listening. (Island)

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