PJ Harvey - "The Orange Monkey" (Singles Going Steady)

Photo: Maria Mochnacz

PJ Harvey's "The Orange Monkey" dovetails an indie rock melody with a Warren Zevon-like lyrical predilection for strange characters and situational ambiguity.

Emmanuel Elone: There's something riveting about PJ Harvey that finds its way into her music, and "The Orange Monkey" is no exception. The drums are light but propulsive, and Harvey's vocals over them sound both powerful and vulnerable at the same time somehow. The lyrics are not her best, but even at her worst PJ Harvey is one hell of a songwriter. So while "The Orange Monkey" is short (just under three minutes), simple and to the point, it remains powerful, exuberant and enthralling all the same. [7/10]

Pryor Stroud: PJ Harvey's "The Orange Monkey" dovetails an indie rock melody with a Warren Zevon-like lyrical predilection for strange characters and situational ambiguity. It's saturated with images -- bits of deliberately half-baked mythology and mischievous wordplay -- that seem nearly incoherent when fitted together. Orange monkeys, shadow-covered mountains, mules, goats, and smog-smothered streets all appear in the track, creating a patchwork narrative reality that incorporates elements of surrealist literature and Travel Channel cultural voyeurism. Is this really a "foreign land" as Harvey's lyric suggests? Or an entirely different world altogether? [6/10]

Chris Ingalls: Harvey's latest album has been accused of "poverty tourism", although I happen to like what I've heard so far, I see the point her critics are making. Having said that, the album stands up on the strengths of the performances and arrangements. While "Community of Hope" was about a neighborhood of Washington, DC, "The Orange Monkey" takes us to Afghanistan. The song has an exotic flavor, with almost hymn-like vocals and insistent (but never overbearing) percussion. It's somewhat dark and cautionary, but it has a raw beauty that her contemporaries would be hard pressed to duplicate. [7/10]

Chad Miller: Did Harvey just waste an entire minute telling us that she has questions and looked at things and took notes? I guess the "You must travel back in time" line served as some sort of supportive exposition, but I'm not sure how necessary it was. I was pretty interested past that point though. I liked the idea of finding fifty million years of pain underneath a mountain "cloaked with snow," which reminded me a lot of Björk's "Modern Things". She also does a good job of linking the past with the present, and the song is pretty strong musically, especially Harvey's sighing melody. [7/10]

SCORE: 6.50





90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.