Rolling Stone On-Line 28th December 1998
PJ Harvey Is This Desire?
Is This Desire? Sometimes, and sometimes it's Blood on the Tracks, too. PJ Harvey's literary folk-punk style can make the skin crawl like few other Nineties sounds, and she wails these twelve creepy tales like a cat in a thunderstorm. The longer you listen, the more producer Flood's heavy hand in the studio becomes an annoyance; certain moments and even whole songs disappear under electronic special effects that have nothing to do with Harvey's talent. (For such a consistent songwriter, she has consistently bad luck with producers - her best-recorded album remains her home-made 4-track Demos) But Is This Desire? peaks high with sombre guitar ballads like 'Angelene', 'The Wind' and the title track. Harvey yowls about her unbearable longing for an unbearable love, and, no matter how cryptic her narratives get, the longing comes through, live and direct.
Harvey's only competition for hag-rock manifesto of the year is Cat Power's Moon Pix. Singer-songwriter Chan Marshall's records always have great moments - 'Not What You Want' on Myra Lee, 'Nude as the News' on What Would the Community Think. But Moon Pix makes that moment last for the whole album. The rhythm section from the Dirty Three plays atmospheric indie-folk, while Marshall sings intense ballads like 'Say' and 'Metal Heart', stretching her vowels out into forlorn moans. Moon Pix is a quiet album, but the songs get more powerful the closer you listen, from the desolate strength of her vocals to subtle touches like the flute on the Nick Drake-like 'He Turns Down'. Both Cat Power and Harvey sound like
they're chronicling the same long, bleak night of cold sweat - so get up, put on a pot of coffee and let these albums scare your demons away.