Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 50ft Queenie

Around the time when I got into PJ Harvey there was a lot of talk in the media about "women in rock". Wow, like the final frontier had been crossed ...or something. The suffragettes had infiltrated the sacred guitar scene - lord, apparently getting the vote wasn't enough they just HAD to go the axe too.

A lot of these so called women in rock talked about being role models for young girls who had few female guitarists to look up to. Of course, they were right. You can find women there in the rock scene. They are there. It's just that they aren't necessarily always where you can see them. It's not so much a lack of women in the music business but that not a lot of fame was ever attributed to women who wrote their own stuff, played their own instruments and did their own thing and all without a stylist - unless of course these women were already stunning in their own right. Image is harder to control in an "artist" than in a "product" and for women there has always been this compromise between the two when it comes to fame. Even for those that start out as artists, soon we see the product emerge in a little fashion tip here or there, a good colourist and finally losing about 20 pounds (whether she needed it or not) and a boob job just because she was "doing it for herself". One doesn't see a whole lot of meatloaf women or Alice cooper women in the mainstream and yet, they exist - believe me.

Anyway, it was the mid-late 90s and I was in a phase of musical discovery and was especially looking for artists which impressed me with their music rather than their lipstick. I was feeling a bit rebellious. Okay, sure maybe for women it will always be about both, but in my mind if there's a bazillion (butt ugly) male musicians out there who garner reverence for their talent, I don't see why there can't be the same for women. And yet, there are still only a handful of these women out there and I wonder if it's because women are out there but are overlooked because they aren't pretty enough to market or whether they AREN'T out there because ROCK isn't pretty enough for THEM. The later scares the shit out of me actually.

But anyway, I spent a lot of time in those mid 90s years in record stores, often picking up new albums at whim to give them a try. Maybe I liked the look of the cover, or had vaguely heard of the artist but of none of the songs, or maybe it was a one off recommendation... Whatever the reason, it was a fun way to spend my disposable cash.

I picked up Dry by PJ Harvey one golden afternoon after a rather long day at uni. I brought it home and listened to it without skipping one track. It was dark, deep, desperate, soulful and red, red raw - which was how men tended to serve their rock, but not women - not so much anyway. It was almost ugly and I just loved it for that. The album art itself *is* ugly, sickly - PJ's dry raw lips framed by a greenish zombie like chin and cheek - which by the way is in direct contrast to her Down By the Water video clip, where she is pristine and beautiful. I do love me some PJ Harvey beautiful or not but for me, it will always be about the album Dry.

I love, love, love this song.

Oh My Lover - PJ Harvey
(...not for the faint hearted)

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