A Woman A Man Walked By – P J Harvey and John Parish

John Parish was joined by Polly Jean Harvey on his 2003 album ‘Dance Hall at Louse Point’ this time on ‘A Woman A Man Walked By’ P J Harvey takes top billing but the album is defiantly a collaboration with both sides meeting in the middle to form certainly the best album P J has done since ‘Stories from the City’. From opener and first single ‘Black Hearted Love’ it’s great to hear Polly’s breathy screech once more and over a tune that sounds not unlike the Bad Seeds it sets you up for an album of songs that at one end of the scale are ghostly meditations to the other where swearing and barking is commonplace, I kid you not. ‘Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen’ is a nursery rhyme with added bite where as the next track ‘Leaving California’ is so sparsely populated it floats by with Polly dropping her rasp for a dream like siren song vocal. ‘The Chair’ is creepy enough without the off beat piano and whispers. ‘April’ plods along to a Hammond beat and reminds you how long Polly has been around and just how many people she has influenced think Bat for Lashes etc. The title track hits like a sledge to the face as Polly swears her way unflinchingly throughout the first half of the song before it builds into a train of a tune that hurtles along the tracks seemingly without any brakes. Thankfully ‘The Soldier’ with its basic strums, bare piano and haunting lyric ‘send me back damaged’ pulls back the pace a little before ‘Pig Will Not’ thrusts open with a primal scream that is most reminiscent of early P J Harvey and as well as a distorted vocal contains the previously mentioned barking. ‘Passionless, Pointless’ is string laden and ethereal and probably the gentlest song on offer but with unusual beats it at times sounds almost like Bjork, which isn’t a criticism by any means. Final track ‘Cracks in the Canvas’ sounds like Black Box Recorder and at under two minutes is way too short and as it fades out you generally have to take stock of what it is you have just heard. Great compositions, great lyrics, two great musicians working together to create a whole, it’s full of ups and downs and is bonkers but it’s also brilliant.

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