PJ Harvey

Man-Size

Song Review by

The one-sentence review of PJ Harvey's second album usually focuses on Steve Albini's squashed, needling production. This is certainly a key part of Rid of Me's sound, but the album isn't a one-dimensional squall of ultra-distorted guitars by any means, as evinced by the powerful "Man-Size." The song appears twice on the album; the second is a fairly standard early PJ Harvey performance, complete with the use of quiet-loud dynamic shifts and a powerful, loud vocal performance that makes full use of the upper reaches of Harvey's range. Four songs before that, however, is "Man-Size (Sextet)," the same lyrics in an entirely different musical setting. Harvey cohorts Steve Vaughan and Robert Ellis don't appear on this song at all, and Harvey herself takes only a vocal role, singing -- quietly and in her lower register -- lyrics that equate sex and violence to an extent unusual even for the often unsettling Harvey. This is set to an exceedingly modern string ensemble, one that's closer to Arnold Schoenberg's atonal song cycle Pierrot Lunaire than, say, "Eleanor Rigby." The combination sounds unpromising, even pretentious, but it works beautifully; Harvey's troubled-sounding delivery of her lyrics is a perfect fit for the harrowing swoops of the string sextet, which is a more enticing, sensitive musical setting than the standard-issue alt-rock of the other version.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Rid of Me 1993 Island 3:16
Man-Size 1993 Island 3:18