This set of PJ Harvey songs is mainly just PJ Harvey doing what she does best which is make lovely, atmospheric, slightly mysterious music. Perhaps there’s a little bit more swagger, with the live spontaneity, but these are pretty faithful interpretations. The differences are subtle, and perhaps most appeal to the loyal PJ Harvey fan rather than a casual listener. Though PJ Harvey is good, so perhaps most casual listeners will soon become fans.
One big difference is that these versions have more a prominent bass sound, particularly in 'The Words That Maketh Murder', where its increased rumbling makes the sinister nature of the bassline more noticeable, and thus augments the general sinister nature of the song.
The first 4 tracks are from the Mercury Prize winning 'Let England Shake' and the last 3 are old: 'Angelene' from 1998, and both 'C'mon Billy' and 'Down By The Water' from 1995. It is these which veer most from the originals, but they follow on smoothly to the rest of the tracks and don't sound incongruous at all. In fact, lyrically they almost seem to fit in somewhat with the melancholy war theme of 'Let England Shake', or at least offer a slightly different reading in this new context.
The aforementioned bass surplus means that 'Down By The Water', bass-driven anyway, is massive and positively purrs here, whilst the backing vocals on this version being male (rather than female on the original) adds an interesting new dynamic to the lyrics and the whole set up of the song, in a way adding a new character to the story.
You also get a long and pretty in-depth, albeit slightly awkward, interview, which, like the rest of the tracks, are certainly worth a listen. Perhaps these versions aren’t radically different to the songs you’ve already heard, but a few listens will reveal subtle changes that emphasise different bits of the songs, so there’s enough on here to make for an interesting listen, so go ahead and listen.
STREAM: PJ Harvey - Down By The Water (iTunes Session) by fadedglamourblog
PJ Harvey's 'iTunes Session' is available to purchase from iTunes.