For all PJ Harvey's critical praise, record sales have always been, to put it mildly, disappointing. So it's now or never for a little commercial rally, and that comes through clearly in this curious attempt to make a conventional pop album.
While still far from cheery cliches, Harvey sounds more keyed up than usual. But her rock and roll touchstones still appear to be Captain Beefheart and Patti Smith, neither of whom is known for shifting units. And as Björk just discovered, choosing Thom Yorke as a vocal partner is no guarantee of chart action.
Neither adventurous nor particularly poppy, Stories From the City doesn't promise a happy ending.