Four years after her last album, PJ Harvey has abandoned the elegant, Mercury Prize-winning slickness that made Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea such an anomaly in her edgy and provocative oeuvre, and frightened longtime fans. Her transformation from angry young girl to elder stateswoman must have scared her, too; Uh Huh Her dispenses with the processed guitars and balladry that led many to assume that she was resigning herself to MOR radio and VH1.
When Harvey tries to revisit past glories, the results feel awkward and out of place. "Who the Fuck?" sounds like an outtake from Rid of Me, with its Albini-like wall of electricity and heaving, sassy chorus, while "Cat on the Wall" whirls inside a shoegaze haze of ambient guitar effects. Ultimately, Uh Huh Her is about self-acceptance, an acknowledgment of Harvey's stylistic and musical limitations. That doesn't mean that she can't write good songs anymore; Uh Huh Her is as compelling an album as she has ever done, but it's miles away from the awe-inspiring mystery of To Bring You My Love. When she strips her records of artifice and conceptual pomp, all that's left is great music and not much else.