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PJ Harvey, White Chalk

Unless you are planning to emerge from the shadows in a blood-stained bridal gown howling that love is a lie, it is probably best not to play PJ Harvey's new album at your wedding. Likewise, avoid playing it on first dates or during awkward dinner parties. Some things are best left to Simply Red.

Since 1992, when her debut album Dry was hailed as a masterpiece of indie rock, PJ Harvey has continued to slog away on the outskirts of the music industry, making records that are hailed by some as harrowingly beautiful and dismissed by others as premenstrual wailing.

Her new album, White Chalk, is likely to divide opinion as effectively as Marmite. A series of stripped-down ballads, played mostly on the piano, it includes such upbeat ditties as Dear Darkness, Devil and Broken Harp.

Even the late John Peel, a DJ who listened to hardcore noise music over his cornflakes, admitted PJ's music was "admirable if not always enjoyable". The emotional intensity of her ballads can be gruelling. But hell, at least it makes a change from The X-Factor.

Or you could...

See the Happy Mondays on tour, promoting their first new album in 15 years... catch the Africa film season at the Arcola Theatre in London... buy all three series of the gut-wrenching travel documentary Tribe on DVD.

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