Polly Jean Harvey made the new Uh Huh Her (Island) at home in Dorset, England, and the music seems like sort of a homecoming too. She mixed and produced the disc herself and played all the instruments—save the drums, handled by longtime collaborator Rob Ellis—and in contrast to the lushly arranged Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, it's stripped-down and raw, a return to the sound of early albums like Rid of Me and Dry. But this time the anger in her lyrics is channeled and contained by a determination born of self-discovery. Even a toss-off like "Who the Fuck?" ("Who the fuck you trying to be / Get your dog away from me!") is focused and unambiguous in its assertiveness, and the love songs are actually hopeful. Though the narrators of "Shame" and "Cat on the Wall" struggle with emotional dependency, they're clearly aware of their precarious situations and not about to lose their grip. Her guitar playing is as nasty as it's ever been, but the arrangements are spacious, opened up by touches of keyboard color. And her singing has never sounded more natural: whether warbling gently on "The Pocket Knife" or moaning moodily on "The Letter," she invites sympathy with genuine emotion, not histrionics. Former Captain Beefheart guitarist Moris Tepper opens. Saturday 2, 8 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, $30. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Maria Mochnacz.