PJ Harvey's earlier work has always grabbed me, sometimes not so subtly, wrapping my mind in a blanket of emotions --music to cuddle up with when thinking catastrophic thoughts. But with "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea," Harvey has created a pedestrian record that is less musically intricate and lyrically intense than previous efforts. This is a surprising turn, considering the raw passion that has propelled the singer-songwriter to date. Perhaps she's simply running out of inspiration?
On "Stories," Harvey sets out with the wide-eyed eagerness of a virgin New Yorker (which she is), searching for cathartic outlets. But opener "Big Exit" offers these lame findings: "Look out ahead/ I see danger come/ I want a pistol/ I want a gun." There is salvation in "This Mess We're In," a duet with Radiohead's Thom York that intertwines the two in a beautiful, maddening dream. But I want the loud, sweaty, intense and always stimulating PJ back.