PJ Harvey - I Inside The Old Year Dying. A driftwood branch or possibly a root with a stark shadow on a white background.

PJ Harvey
I Inside The Old I Dying

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The single ‘I Inside The Old I Dying’ is taken from the album, I Inside The Old Year Dying which will be released on 7th July 2023. With a shuffle beat and a gentle acoustic sound, it nevertheless transports many quirky moments and an odd spiritual lyricism.

The bass drum sounds like a heartbeat, as PJ Harvey intones the odd words that conjure a deep-in-nature rebirth of a saviour. The chorus is a complete mystery to me and I await with eager anticipation to be enlightened about its meaning. It sounds like the Spanish for “a king and a king and it was in” (un rey y un rey y fue en). It almost fits the song but on this occasion a thorough shrug for me and my skills.

The arrangement is more intelligible to me, it’s wonderfully intricate while giving a false impression of simplicity. There’s lots of space for the melody to shine, with its folksy atmosphere perfectly matching the words.

Polly Harvey shared this story from the song’s recording:

This delicate and beautiful song eluded us until the very last day in the studio. Over the previous five weeks we had tried so many times to capture it and failed, but then John reinvented the feel of the guitar pattern. As he was demonstrating it in the control room, Flood handed me a microphone and pressed record whilst I sat next to John trying to work out how to sing to it. The result somehow captures the ethereal and melancholic longing I was looking for.

In the lyric everyone is waiting for the saviour to reappear – everyone and everything anticipates the arrival of this figure of love and transformation.

There is a sense of sexual longing and awakening and of moving from one realm into another – from child to adult, from life to death and the eternal.

PJ Harvey

The video that accompanies the song is a high-effort stop-motion sequence featuring a man, his dog, and an expected method of resurrection. It’s surprisingly touching.

Watch PJ Harvey – ‘I Inside The Old I Dying’.

I Inside The Old I Dying Lyrics

The beech buds wait
The ash buds wait
The frogs and toads in lagwood holes
And hedgehogs in their leafy ditch
All waiting for his kingdom

The earth waits
The dead brakes
Than host the holly’s bloody beads
They are his crown of thorns
And he will rise again

Oh Wyman, Oh Wyman
Unray I
Unray I for en

Slip from my childhood skin
I zing through the forest
I hover in the holway
And laugh into the leaves

Oh Wyman, Oh Wyman
Unray I
Unray I for en

I laugh in the leaves
And merge to meesh
Just a charm in the woak
With the chalky children of evermore

The chalky children of evermore

Written by Fenton on

Steve Fenton writes in our music, words, and culture categories. He was Editor in Chief for The Mag and covered live music for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues throughout the UK alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve is also a technical writer and programmer and writes gothic fiction. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.

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