Music

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

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