PJ HARVEY Rid of Me (Island 314-514-696-2)
THE KINKS Phobia (Columbia CK-48724)
BRYAN FERRY Taxi (Reprise 9 45246-2)
VINCE NEIL Exposed (Warner Bros. 9 45260-2)
PRIMUS Pork Soda (Interscope 92257)
PORNO FOR PYROS Porno for Pyros (Warner Bros. 9 45228-2)
POLLY Jean Harvey was the surprise hit artist of 1992.
Harvey's debut album, "Dry," received critical acclaim and the little-known English rocker devel-oped a cult following. Now she's back with her unique blend of feminism, sex and hard-driving rock 'n' roll.
"Rid of Me" begins with the title song, a paranoid vision of sex from a distinctly female point of view. The song sways from convoluted rage to physical ecstasy.
"Missed" is a slow rocker filled with painful longing. "Legs" finds Harvey moaning with delight as the musical pace builds with ascending anger.
Harvey, like Tori Amos, is representative of a new female style in contemporary music. They are both quirky, fiercely outspoken and flaunt independent attitudes and intellects. Harvey has a much rougher musical edge than Amos. On "Rub 'Til It Bleeds," the blistering guitar becomes a weapon to enforce her will.
The grunge guitar lead in to "Hook" is straight out of Nirvana, and Harvey enjoys this kind of aural assault. She is backed by Robert Ellis on drums and Steve Vaughan on bass. In addition to guitar Harvey also plays cello, violin and organ.
It's her voice, though, that captures the most attention. Harvey covers Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," which begins with a distorted vocal and evolves into a punk/thrash song. Harvey pulls off such unorthodox antics with ease.
"Man Size" is a more traditional rocker, and "Me Jane" is dominated by pounding bass and drums over Harvey's wailing voice.
PJ Harvey may be a commercial success, but she remains true to her rebellious roots with her second album. Rating: ****.
In the 1960s, the Kinks helped revolutionize rock with classics such as "You Really Got Me," "All Day and All of the Night" and "Well Respected Man."
Ray Davies emerged as one of the most talented and creative songwriters and performers of the English music invasion. His brother, Dave Davies, supplied the guitar licks that made the Kinks' sound so special.
Now the Davies brothers are back with their first album of the '90s, and despite some bright moments it fails to live up to their past accomplishments.
"Wall of Fire" opens the record on a rocking note, but the old Kinks fire has faded.
"Drift Away" is a song about longing to escape, and "Scattered" seems a personal statement about Ray Davies' former relationship with singer Chrissie Hynde. He sings: "And I've been out of my mind/Ever since she's been gone."
This is the song that comes closest to capturing the former Kinks' iconoclasm, which toed the line between love and hatred. Dave Davies folky guitar compliments his brother's lyrical agony.
"Phobia" shows a revolutionary band that may have lost its bite but is still fun to hear. May you live long and prosper, Ray, and keep on truckin'. Maybe next time. Rating: ** 1/2 .
Bryan Ferry is another veteran rocker searching for a new sound. So his new album is filled with old cover songs. Go figure.
Sometimes it works. Ferry, the former lead singer of Roxy Music, offers a funk/dance version of "I Put a Spell on You." Then he indulges himself in a spacey, soft version of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" that is the highlight of the album. Ferry shows an emotional tenderness that captures the essence of the song.
Other covers include "Rescue Me" and a soulful version of the old Elvis sound-alike "Girl of My Best Friend." To complete his cover trip, Brother Bryan offers a techno-hymn, "Amazing Grace," that falls flat. Rating: ***.
Vince Neil left Motley Crue, but you can't tell by his first solo album. Neil's new sidekick is killer guitarist Steve Stevens, who churns out power rock chords with abandon.
"Look in Her Eyes" sounds just like the Crue, as does "Sister of Pain." It's the same old Vince Neil screaming about his favorite things: women, wild times and loud music.
"Fine, Fine Wine" jumps with frenetic fury and is the first single off the album. Neil slows down the pace with the ballads "Can't Change Me" and "Forever."
On "Exposed" Vince Neil proves he doesn't need his old band to rock out. It's just like old times. Rating: ***.
Primus is moving into the alternative-rock big leagues. The band's last album, "Sailing the Seas of Cheese," earned critical raves and a gold record. "Pork Soda" is another exhilarating effort that will please fans.
"My Name Is Mud," the first single release, is already a hit on college radio. Primus' sound is not meant for the mainstream, but if you take the time to listen, it's worth the challenge. The band will be a headliner on this year's Lollapalooza tour and that should enhance its commercial standing. Rating: ****.
Perry Farrell turned rock music on its head with Jane's Addiction, but something is lacking with his new band, Porno for Pyros. Farrell seems to have lost his vigor and raging punk sensibilities.
There are some worthwhile efforts, such as "Cursed Female," but not much else. It's a disjointed, confusing record and actually brings a feeling of nostalgia for Jane's Addiction. Rating: *.