- Personnel: Polly Jean Harvey (vocals, guitar); Eric Drew Feldman (various instruments); John Parish, Joe Gore (guitar); Jeremy Hogg (slide guitar); Richard Hunt (violin); Terry Edwards (trumpet); Mick Harvey (bass); Rob Ellis (drums).
- Recorded at Small World Studios, Yeovil, England and Whitefield Street Studios, London, England from April 1997 to April 1998.
- IS THIS DESIRE? was nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance.
- Personnel: Richard Hunt (violin); Terry Edwards (trumpet).
- Recording information: London, England (1997-1998); Small Wonders Studios (1997-1998); Whitfield Street Studios, London, England (1997-1998); Yeovil (1997-1998).
- Unknown Contributor Roles: Eric Drew Feldman; Joe Gore; John Parish.
- Arrangers: Mick Harvey; Rob Ellis.
- Author of a brand of feminine angst that far predates the Alanis nation, Polly Jean Harvey brings a heretofore-unseen level of drama to the pop form. She is possessed of a rage that is finely focused, and an artistic sensibility that injects her music with a disarming, highly literate edge. Her fifth album, IS THIS DESIRE? finds Harvey delivering on the promise of her earlier albums: without losing any of the rage of her earlier, more guitar-driven work, she further refines her psychotic tales of obsession and despair, all the while laying down a sonic groundwork which is always experimental and unexpected, including a heavy dose of electronica.
- Harvey's trademark whisper-to-a-scream vocal style is present throughout IS THIS DESIRE. "The Sky Lit Up" sees a casual, almost spoken vocal erupt slowly into an otherworldy wail, accented perfectly by wild guitar textures. "Catherine" is a sublime, evocative ballad, whose vitriolic lyrics are juxtaposed against a soft, rolling backing track. "The Garden" skips along at a determined pace, with keyboard textures and swelling strings making it a quintessential PJ Harvey composition: haunting, angry and thoroughly unusual.
Rolling Stone (10/15/98, pp.128-129) - 4 Stars (out of 5) - "...A less carnally confident singer would fall flat with so much melodrama....Harvey's charismatic growl hasn't failed her yet, and she struts her stuff all over these twelve dark jewels....Most of the album is muted balladry..."
Spin (11/98, pp.132-134) - 8 (out of 10) - "...There are more contempo club textures here than the blues riffs she was firing off when we met her....Even though her increasingly aquatic arrangements have the delicay of Debussy, her delivery has more to do with Chuck Berry--from her gut to your heart as fast as you can say `Maybelline'..."
Entertainment Weekly (10/2/98, p.74) - "...Sure, Harvey's a romantic nihilist, but she's also a brilliant formalist, and this may be her most musically daring and fully realized effort....DESIRE seethes with hypnotic power." - Rating: A
Q (11/98, p.120) - 4 stars (out of 5) - "...IS THIS DESIRE? is the most artfully truncated missives of bleakness and pain to have emerged from a jewel box or Digipack since the dawn of the CD..."
The Wire (1/99, p.27) - Included in Wire's "50 Records Of The Year "
Vibe (11/98, p.174) - "...Revealing the pre-millennium influence of her friend and collaborator Tricky....IS THIS DESIRE? delivers one standout classic..."