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Archived from the original on 13 April Stories was predominately about New York where she lived for a while and being in love.
On the cover, she stood looking chic and purposeful amid the bright lights of a Manhattan street. Entering her 30s, she seemed to have sanded down her edges and become comfortable, which, for all the album's charms, was a disappointment.
But no. Her next album, 's Uh Huh Her was a raggedy scrapbook of disparate ideas, less a coherent statement than an exercise in creative house-clearing, and with White Chalk she opened a whole new chapter.
Perennially disgruntled by critics who took her songs for glorified diary entries, she embraced a more obviously literary approach, setting aside her guitar to pick out sparse, beautiful melodies on unfamiliar instruments such as the piano and autoharp.
She sits down to write every single day instead of waiting for the muse to strike. Lyrics tend to start out as poetry, and some then evolve into songs. Listening to her talk about Let England Shake , it sounds less like a record than a novel or an art exhibition. She did get a record deal, but in a way she's been at art school ever since.
She's extremely independent. She makes a plan and then very methodically carries it out. All the photographs and videos accompanying the new album are the work of the war photographer Seamus Murphy. It's almost like watching a scene from a film, and that's what I go about trying to catch in a song.
Songwriters tend to be notoriously bad at describing the creative process, and loth to mention the perspiration behind the inspiration, but Harvey is visibly energised by talking about it. I wanted to get better, I wanted to be more coherent, I wanted there to be a greater strength and depth emotionally, and all these things require work — to hone something, to get rid of any superfluous language.
I'm inspired by the other great writers I go back to and read again and again, and think how did they do that? Such as?
She indicates a volume of Harold Pinter's poetry that she has brought with her. Just unbelievable. A poem like 'American Football' or 'The Disappeared'. TS Eliot of course. Ted Hughes. WB Yeats. James Joyce. I'm reading John Burnside's poems at the moment. Do you know his work? I'm getting that feeling — just reaching the end of every poem, going 'Oh my God! It made me want to try and get close to this strange, mysterious thing that people can do with words.
Even so, I wonder if she ever misses the jolting release of strapping on an electric guitar, turning it up loud, and bashing out a song in a couple of hours.
It might be driving really fast somewhere. It might be screaming like a lunatic, running fast down a hill. Or playing music extremely loud and shouting. This is the thing about Harvey. She has done such a good job recently of presenting herself as a patient craftswoman, chipping away at words the way her mother chips away at stone, that you could be mistaken for thinking she had become emotionally cool, but it's just that she doesn't advertise that side of her personality anymore, and for good reason.
When, in , she was promoting Dry , whose torrid, abstract expressions of female sexuality were new to indie-rock, she found herself fielding questions about when she lost her virginity. Along with the other sudden pressures of entering the music business, it precipitated a nervous breakdown. Circa To Bring You My Love three years later, when she adopted a lurid, glam-grotesque look she described as "Joan Crawford on acid," she was asked about eating disorders.
Who could blame her for pulling up the drawbridge in later years? She is not cool so much as contained, with a hint of underground streams foaming away beneath the surface. I certainly can get very angry about things I hear day to day, and shout at the radio, shout at the television, or actually feel sick or feel like weeping.
When you rolled a smoke or told a joke, it was in the laughter and drinking water, it approached the beach as strings of cutters, dropped into the sea and lay around us. Death was in the ancient fortress, shelled by a million bullets from gunners, waiting in the copses with hearts that threatened to pop their boxes, as we advanced into the sun death was all and everyone. Death hung in the smoke and clung to acres of useless beachfront. A bank of red earth, dripping down death, now, and now, and now.
Death was in the staring sun, fixing its eyes on everyone. It rattled the bones of the Light Horsemen still lying out there in the open. The scent of Thyme carried on the wind, stings your face into remembering that nature has won again. Cruel nature, cruel, cruel nature. The land returns to how it has always been. The scent of Thyme carried on the wind. Jagged mountains jutting out, cracked like teeth in a rotten mouth. I live and die through England. It leaves sadness.
It leaves a taste, a bitter one. Remedies never were, remedies, not within my reach. I cannot go on as I am. I cannot leave. England, I have searched for your springs, but people stagnate with time like water or air. Undaunted, never-failing love for you, England, is all, to which I cling. We got up early, washed our faces, walked the fields and put up crosses, Passed through the damned mountains, went hellwards, and some of us returned, and some of us did not.
In the fields and in the forests, under the moon and under the sun another summer has passed before us, and not one man has, not one woman has revealed the secrets of this world.
So our young men hid with guns in the dirt and in in the dark places. Bitter branches spreading out. There is none more bitter than the wood. Soldiers, standing in a line, the damp earth underneath, holding their rifles high. Holding their young wives with white hands. Hold up the clear glass to see. Hold up the clear glass and look through; soldiers standing in formation, the damp earth underneath, holding their rifles high. Their young wives, with white hands wave goodbye.
Their arms as bitter branches spreading into the white world.