This Album Changed My Life: PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2001)
Famous Seamus of the Lords of Strut on the album that became ‘set deep in my bones’
Lords of Strut. Photograph: Dara Munnis
My metaphorical “first” album is PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. When I turned 21, I mainly listened to copied tapes of dance mixes, but, influenced through copied tapes of Stone Roses and The Pixies, my taste was developing beyond “Henry’s-esque” dance music. I was living with my girlfriend at the time on Shandon Street in Cork city, and circus was beginning to earn me a living. Life was on the up and up.
After hearing the review of the album on Rattlebag (a much-missed arts programme on RTÉ radio), I went out and bought it. The reviewers put the album into context, which put me in a very different listening position. For once I felt like I was hearing something brand new, and that was important for that time in my life. The album speaks a lot about time and place, but more importantly, I was listening with the context the reviewers had given me, and it completely changed how I heard the album. How I consumed that album changed how I consume art, news, politics. It’s all about context.
I didn’t own it for a few years – I have a suspicion that I lost it in the break-up that followed a year later – but when I rediscovered it, the harsh guitar riffs, the melodious screams of PJ, were set deep in my bones. When she sings about the New York skyline, my own memories fill with the Shandon skyline of Cork city, and the excitement of my early 20s, flavoured with the years that have passed because it’s all about context.
Cormac Mohally, aka Famous Seamus, is one-half of the comedy duo Lords of Strut. Catch them leading the synchronised swimming in the indoor pool at It Takes a Village festival, Trabolgan, east Cork on May 12th. ittakesavillage.fm