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Archive for the ‘Harvard Book Review’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-4-Track Demos (1993).

After the intensity of the Steve Albini produced Rid of Me, Harvey releases this collection of demos.  The amazing thing is that these versions actually seem more intense than the Albini version. Or if not more intense, then certainly more raw.

The songs definitely have an unfinished feel about them, and yet they only vary from the final version in polish (and Albini’s stamp).

“Rid of Me” is just as quiet/loud, and has those high-pitched (and scary) backing vocals.  Speaking of scary vocals, her lead screams in “Legs” are far scarier here than on Rid of Me–like really creepy.  (Which sort of undermines that idea that this was released because Rid of Me was too intense for fans).   “Snake” actually features even creepier vocals–Harvey must have had a field day making these sounds!

I admit that I like the finished version of “50 Ft Queenie” better,”but there’s something about this version of “Yuri-G” that I like better.

The disc also has some tracks unreleased elsewhere.  “Reeling” is an organ-propelled song of female strength with the nice lyric: “Robert DeNiro sit on my face.”  “Hardly Wait” is a slow grinder that is fairly quiet for this time period.  “M-Bike” is a cool angry rocker about a guy and his motorcycle which is one of my favorite tracks on the disc.

It’s a great companion to Rid of Me.

[READ: end of February to early March]  original articles that comprise A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

As I mentioned last week, I decided to compare the articles in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again with the original publications to see what the differences were.  It quickly became obvious that there were a lot of additions to most of the articles, and it seems rather pointless (well, actually it seems exhausting and really outrageously time-consuming) to mention them all.  But what I did want to note was the things that are in the articles that have been removed from the book.   There’s not a lot but there are a few juicy tidbits (especially in the early articles) that are fun to note for anyone who read only the book and not the original articles.

My process for this was rather unthorough: I read the article and then right afterward I read the book.  If I noticed any changes, I made a note on the article version.  Many of them were surprisingly easy to note as DFW’s writing style (especially his idiosyncratic phrases) really stand out.  This is especially true in the Harper’s articles.  The academic ones were less notable, I believe, and I’m sure I missed a bunch.

I’m not sure in any way how these pieces were dealt with initially by the magazine or DFW.  I assume that DFW handed in the larger article (like we see in the book) and the magazine made suggested edits and DFW edited accordingly.  Then the book copies are probably the originals, bt which have also been updated in some way.

In most cases, it’s not really worth reading the original article, but I’m including links (thanks Howling Fantods), for the curious.

As for length, it’s hard to know exactly what the conversion from magazine article to book is.  The “Tornado Alley” tennis article is 8 pages (more like 4 pages when you take out the ads) and the book is 17.  Perhaps more accurately it seems like one Harper’s column = just under one book page.  I’ll try to figure out what the conversion is if I can.

One last note, whenever I say “article” I mean the original magazine version.  And obviously “book” means ASFTINDA. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Rid of Me (1993).

For Rid of Me, PJ Harvey jumped to the big leagues (relatively) by enlisting maniac Steve Albini as a producer.  And he takes the rawness of Dry one step further into a sound that is both raw and sharp.  He really highlights the differences between the highs and lows, the louds and quiets.  And man, when this came out I loved it.

Like NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” the opening of “Rid Of Me” is so quiet that you have to crank up the song really loud.  And then it simply blasts out of the speakers after two quiet verses.

“Legs” turns Harvey’s moan into a voice of distress, really accentuating the hurt in her voice.  And Harvey hasn’t lightened up her attitudes since Dry, especially in the song “Dry” which has the wonderfully disparaging chorus: “You leave me dry.”

“Rub Til It Bleeds” is a simple song that opens with a few guitars and drums but in true Albini fashion it turns into a noisy rocker.  “Man Size Quartet” is a creepy string version of the later song “Man Size” (I’ll bet the two together would sound great).  And the wonderful “Me Jane” is a great mix of rocking guitars and crazy guitar skronk.   Albini really highlights the high-pitched (male) backing vocals, which add an element of creepiness that is very cool.

For me the highlight is “50 Foot Queenie”.  It just absolutely rocks the house from start to finish.  The song is amazing, from the powerful…well…everything including the amazing guitar solo.  “Snake” is a fast rocker (all of 90 seconds long) and “Ecstasy” is a song that feels wrung out, stretched to capacity, like they’ve got nothing left.

It’s not an easy record by any means, but it is very rewarding.  This is a CD that really calls for reamastering.  Because it is too quiet by half, and could really use–not a change in production–just an aural boost.

[READ: end of February and beginning of March] A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

This is a collection of 7 essays that DFW wrote from 1990-1996.  Three were published in Harper’s, two in academic journals, one in Esquire and the last in Premiere.  I devoured this book when it came out (I had adored “Shipping Out” when it was published in Harper’s) and even saw DFW read in Boston (where he signed my copy!).

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[Does anyone who was at the reading in Harvard Square…in the Brattle Theater I THINK…remember what excerpts he read?]

The epigram about these articles states: “The following essays have appeared previously (in somewhat different [and sometimes way shorter] forms:)”  It was the “way shorter” that intrigued me enough to check out the originals and compare them to the book versions.  Next week, I’ll be writing a post that compares the two versions, especially focusing on things that are in the articles but NOT in the book (WHA??).

But today I’m just taking about the book itself. (more…)

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