Friday, 13 March 2009

A Simple Distinction

Journalists of the world: PJ Harvey and Patti Smith are not really all that similar. I understand that you're lazy, and that they both have dark hair and striking cheekbones and strong artistic personalities, but this needs to stop.

For future reference:
  • Patti Smith's best music sounds like the work of a beat poet on a rock'n'roll rampage. Your obvious reference points would be Blake, Ginsberg, and any number of classic/excessive sixties rock acts, but feel free to go deeper than that if it's not too much trouble.
  • PJ Harvey's best music is far more constrained and brutal than all that -- whether she's playing the piano, vamping like a cabaret she-devil, or beating the shit out of a guitar, her performances are always far more sculpted than Smith's work. Even at her most elemental, Harvey never sounds like she's pushing for rock'n'roll transcendence; instead, she forces her intense performances into very specific spaces, twisting her intensity into startling new forms every time she takes to the stage. I could understand the confusion if every PJ Harvey album sounded like Stories From The City..., because certain tracks on that record share a sense of joyous abandon with parts of Smith's ouvre. That Stories... isn't hugely representative of Harvey's aesthetic only enhances my sense that journalists who make this comparison are not trying very hard.
Thanks for your time.


sean witzke said...


David said...

It's true, isn't it?

Every time a music critic takes this angle it makes me want to break out the pain kit...