PJ Harvey : Classic or Dud

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Lots to discuss here.

What do you reckon to "Stories from the City..." Return of Sheela-na-gig or a coffee-table Patti Smith?

Is "Rid of Me" her career high, or an overrated Albini dirge?

I can't decide!

Dr. C, Monday, 19 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Don't know if there's a lot to discuss, you already presented exactly my feelings on La PJ's oeuvre. "Rid of Me" very good. That last one: coffee table Patti Smith. Oh yeah and some mildy interesting electronic stuff in between ;)

Omar, Monday, 19 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Not really, Omar, I really can't decide whether PJ is still any good or not. That's why I'm interested to get some other views. On first hearing, 'Stories' was a huge let down for the first 6 or 7 tracks and then.... "You said Something" and "Kamikaze" reminded me how good she can be. The Thom Yorke track is crap. I found the 'mildly interesting electronic stuff' (Is this Desire?) actually VERY interesting if a little unfinished, and I was hoping that PJ would go further in that direction. Not so.

As for the other albums, I prefer "To Bring You My Love" to "Dry", "Dry" to "Rid of Me".

Dr. C, Monday, 19 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I have vaguely undifferentiated love for her work, and I mean that in a good way. ;-) While I've listened to the earliest albums the most by virtue of the fact that, well, they've been around longer, I have yet to be disappointed by what she's doing (and she puts one good live show, methinks). _Stories_ was a wonderful surprise in that it reminded me exactly how great she can get.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 19 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

PJ Harvey is great. I don't really have anything more incisive to say about her. If this was Search/Destroy, I'd say Search: "Rid of Me" the album, "Four Track Demos", her live shows, 'Dress', 'Big Exit', 'Easy' etc. Destroy: Tiresome talk about her nervous breakdowns, much of "Dry", that's about it.

pihkalboy, Tuesday, 20 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

You can't decide? I can. Dud.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 20 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

Dud, definitely. The melodies just don't "click" for me, and her voice is an acquired taste, I guess.

Jack Redelfs, Tuesday, 20 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I found "Rid Of Me" in a remainder bin once, for cheap, by Mr. Mod insisted that I not waste my money on it. In retrospect, I should have picked it up. Early stuff: classic. Later stuff: "Stories..." is good, but not mindblowing. While she's talented enough, her status as golden girl comes mainly from music critics attempting desperately to seem like they like female artists as much as guy artists. Also note that Mrs. Harvey's music has been known to exert the dread "Tori Amos- effect" over certain fans. Which both counts against the music and cements "classic" status.

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 21 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

I was this close to getting "Stories...", it was a bit of a slow period and I read some good things on the album, but somewhere in the shop I suddenly couldn't be arsed. Same thing happened with the Wookie album. It all seemed so neat and boring, the Prada shades, the black dress, a New York album, Thom Yorke song, return-to-geetarrr- form, the inevitable praise it was going to get from old fart NY critics. Why settle for ersatz Patti Smith when you accidently find a Dopplereffekt cd? Or am I really missing something important?

Omar, Wednesday, 21 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

New album is definately Patti Smith by numbers, a little strange move I think. Why? Postmodern pastiche? Eh? She is capable of so much more that covering this ground (again). Overproduced, and a slightly boring kind of sound. She's obviously classic though, the songs still hold up (even if I don't like them).

But I do like the new single 'Place Called Home'. A blantantly pop single, but you gotta love it.

Michael, Wednesday, 21 February 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

one month passes...
I though she was great, Is this Desire as good, if not better than anything the ever did. The first album remains the best on mind. New album, like the sky collapsing, first track sounds like U2, utterly ghastly ordinaryness. Even the fast tracks just seem to going through the motions.

Stephen Robinson, Thursday, 22 March 2001 01:00 (twenty years ago) link

seven months pass...
My friend Christelle is a devout Harvey worshipper, I must admit that the heavy metal side of my likes the Rid of Me record (a brilliantly produced record), but the rest of her output doesn't stand out to me.

However, I saw her perform You Said Something on David Letterman show, and I have to say that that particular performance was one of the best television experiences I've had in my life. If you have a Harvey fan for a friend, ask them if they taped it and go see it with them. Truly trancendent.

Love, Jeff

Jeff Guidry, Wednesday, 21 November 2001 01:00 (nineteen years ago) link

seven months pass...
come on now -- don't we have anything more to say?

josie, Monday, 8 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

yeah, I do: she's WAY more interesting than Patti Smith.

Justyn Dillingham, Tuesday, 9 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I loved "A Perfect Day, Elise" - the mysterious third-person narratives, the mildly industrial backing, the overall distanced effect that she goes for on that album and perfects on that particular track. Is This Desire? as a whole reeks of the Bronte sisters, and is all the better for it.

Tim, Tuesday, 9 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

two years pass...
Maybe time to revive this thread, though certainly there was enough over here:

"Uh Huh Her." Thoughts on the new PJ Harvey?

...to keep us going for a while.

However, talking about her as a whole -- I'm going through a relisten of everything building up to the show on Tuesday (might even dig up all the B-sides if I can manage it), and that meant Dry earlier (good songs, couple of great performances, strong without being compelling) and Rid of Me now (holy fuck what a great album -- what a *GREAT* album).

It seems to me that she's very easily slipped over the line that separates initially promising start to ever more unique figure to finally someone with an actual continuing career well over a decade while still remaining interesting, to me at least. And all on the same label still, eight albums on (allowing for the fact that Dry got picked up by Island here and counting the Parish collaboration). Not bad, more thoughts later...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 October 2004 03:01 (sixteen years ago) link

But is it art?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 October 2004 04:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Ned: Dapper, but you know it.

edward o (edwardo), Monday, 25 October 2004 05:26 (sixteen years ago) link

PJ and the band are on fire at the moment, one of the best live acts I've ever seen. Effortlessly upstaged a classic 'T in the Park' line-up this year, The Pixies not excluded.


Soukesian, Monday, 25 October 2004 06:40 (sixteen years ago) link

I played part of "Kamikaze" when I DJed on friday night. It was awesome. Drunk indie girl hugged me!

sometimes i like to pretend i am very small and warm (ex machina), Monday, 25 October 2004 07:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Okay, so today so far 4-Track Demos (yes, yes, a contrast to Albini and all but it actually works very well in its own right and I really like the songs that didn't make the final album cut) and right now To Bring You My Love (exactly why did I forget that "Long Snake Moan" was so spectacular again?).

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 October 2004 15:47 (sixteen years ago) link

live she is even better than on record. saw her once in munich where i went to see giant sand. giant sand were good but she totally blew them away with a performance of an intensity i have rarely seen before. she rocks hard, she has the blues and she has the voice of a lioness. breathtaking.

alex in mainhattan (alex63), Monday, 25 October 2004 17:58 (sixteen years ago) link

damn, this is making me really regret not seeing her at 9:30 club the other day for 20 bucks. I won't even mention what I went to see instead...

"Sheela-na-gig" has been on repeat for several days now in Winamp.

Richard K (Richard K), Monday, 25 October 2004 18:20 (sixteen years ago) link

alright i'm gonna 'out' myself as a fan (i said fan not stalker)

been with her stuff since 'sheela'

live performances in the past have been disappointing against the records *but* a recent live encounter proved her at the at the absolute apex top of her game. great tunes/performance/band the whole thing.

catch while you can...

john clarkson, Monday, 25 October 2004 18:35 (sixteen years ago) link

But PJ Harvey is a rockist!

Momus (Momus), Monday, 25 October 2004 21:05 (sixteen years ago) link


Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 October 2004 21:13 (sixteen years ago) link

"Long Snake Moan" is my favourite song on To Bring You My Love, Ned. The opening is stunning.

Tim Finney (Tim Finney), Monday, 25 October 2004 23:44 (sixteen years ago) link

That's for damn sure. And I even had the volume down and it stopped me in my tracks!

Dance Hall is indeed a very good album as you said over on the monster thread, but I think it's very subtle and requires a lot of relistening -- it's about the only album that the cover of "Is That All There Is?" aside I can't immediately recall a full song from it, even though I've heard it a lot. Hrm.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 25 October 2004 23:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Ok what heckle should I throw at her, tonight?

(if I were the "heckling type", which is not necessarily the case)

Thea (Thea), Monday, 25 October 2004 23:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Totally agree she is better live. For me records = hmmm, not bad. Live = Christ, I'm glad I went to this show!

Piers (piers), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 00:21 (sixteen years ago) link

Ok what heckle should I throw at her, tonight?

Hey, you better not. ;-)

Seeing her tonight, rah! Hm. Wonder if she'll mention Peel.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 14:21 (sixteen years ago) link

Ned, if you get up to the front, please demand that she play "Heart-Shaped Box."

Raymond Cummings (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 14:26 (sixteen years ago) link

Well I see how I could...huh? ;-)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 14:27 (sixteen years ago) link

Or "Trigger Cut," whichever. Kthxbye :)

Raymond Cummings (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 14:31 (sixteen years ago) link

Sike, Ned. I don't know where those posts came from.

I say classic, if only for Rid Of Me (which I only own on tape and never can listen to for this reason, really really REALLY need to get it on CD), To Bring You My Love, and Uh Huh Her. Everything else is pretty good (Dry) to crap (Dance Hall).

Raymond Cummings (Raymond Cummings), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 14:34 (sixteen years ago) link

Is This Desire? is so damned murky. This isn't a criticism, it's more a wonderful weird surprise. What a strange, distanced album. I think it has something to do with Flood. Its peers would be Depeche's Ultra and Tricky's Pre-Millenial Tension.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 16:03 (sixteen years ago) link

Stories, meanwhile, is the trebly response, the weird nervous live wire most though not all of the time. Jittery, that's this album, like everything's a little too wound up and on the verge of shaking itself apart. It's really very good, and isn't as slick as some would say it is.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 17:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Ned - were you there, last night? I loved her and the show right down to her little striped socks and yes, it reminded me of how many strong songs she's given us over the years.

Thea (Thea), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 18:53 (sixteen years ago) link

No, not last night, am going tonight. To assuage Momus, I presume it will be nothing but Bjork covers done WITH Bjork.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 18:56 (sixteen years ago) link

Drat. Well I stood with John Lewis-formerly-of-KUCI, what do you think of that.

I wonder if she'll play the same set. If I weren't packing boxes I'd go again.

Thea (Thea), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 19:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Drat. Well I stood with John Lewis-formerly-of-KUCI, what do you think of that.

I'd imagine he was himself.

(Are you going to be at EJL's party on Saturday? If not, I will pout.)

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 19:13 (sixteen years ago) link

Moving, but will try to stop by. Nice that you'll be there.

Thea (Thea), Tuesday, 26 October 2004 19:19 (sixteen years ago) link

Great, great show. End of the main set -- a Fall cover in homage to Peel, "The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore" and a version of "Meet Ze Monsta" that was astonishing. End of the first encore -- "Is This Desire?," an impossibly fragile version.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 16:01 (sixteen years ago) link

i saw her in santa cruz at the catalyst a few months ago and it was easily one of the best shows I've ever seen.

kyle (akmonday), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 16:11 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...
Loving the Peel Sessions disc right about now.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 9 May 2007 04:04 (thirteen years ago) link

Must be due some new material from PJ soon?

Soukesian, Wednesday, 9 May 2007 07:11 (thirteen years ago) link

That Peel Sessions disc is kinda incomplete, though, if I'm not mistaken. Didn't she once do "Long Time Comin'" for Peel? One of my favorite Polly performances ever, that.

JN$OT, Wednesday, 9 May 2007 07:51 (thirteen years ago) link

ha, i just dug some pj out for the first time in months at the weekend! dry - still awesome, the sheer energy of it is amazing. the bass on 'dress' is so deep.

lex pretend, Wednesday, 9 May 2007 08:03 (thirteen years ago) link

claseeck! surely.
Rid of Me + the 8 Track Demos are the peak!

edde, Wednesday, 9 May 2007 13:43 (thirteen years ago) link

She doesn't move too much in the new show, but has a great stage presence regardless.

NWOFHM! Overlord (krakow), Tuesday, 14 March 2017 12:17 (four years ago) link

That's reassuring to hear, krakow. Saw her on the Stories tour which was great but I have a feeling I'll appreciate the live band more this time.

Carlotta's Portrait (Ross), Tuesday, 14 March 2017 18:31 (four years ago) link

I'm seeing her in Boston because why not. But yeah, the new album was such a nonevent.

Turangalila, Tuesday, 14 March 2017 18:59 (four years ago) link

Does she play guitar, or just, like, hurdy gurdy?

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 14 March 2017 19:07 (four years ago) link

iirc she only sings in the current setup

Turangalila, Tuesday, 14 March 2017 19:14 (four years ago) link

Mainly she sings, but she does also play sax and guitar in the current set.

NWOFHM! Overlord (krakow), Wednesday, 15 March 2017 09:30 (four years ago) link

Just announced two nights in Edinburgh for the International Festival in August. I'll definitely head over for one of those.

NWOFHM! Overlord (krakow), Wednesday, 15 March 2017 13:28 (four years ago) link

Going to the Brooklyn show. Not a fan of the last few records but she's always been great live and her band will probably be top shelf. Plus, looking forward to seeing the new venue.

kwhitehead, Wednesday, 15 March 2017 14:11 (four years ago) link

Saw her in the last Primavera Sound. Didn't like last album either but the tracks sound great live. Her performance makes a difference

Shin Oliva Suzuki, Wednesday, 15 March 2017 14:54 (four years ago) link

The band is absolutely first rate. Some jaw-dropped performances. The saxophone solos from the main guy in particular I could barely believe, he was awesome.

NWOFHM! Overlord (krakow), Wednesday, 15 March 2017 16:16 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

Saw her in Seattle. Thought the new songs fared better live, especially "The Ministry Of Social Affairs" with the jazz skronk solos. So awesome to see PJ playing sax as well. Highlights were "Written On The Forehead" and "The River" from my favourite album, "Is This Desire?".

Carlotta's Portrait (Ross), Monday, 8 May 2017 21:19 (three years ago) link

gonna drive to LA to see her in a few days. she's prob my favorite living artist that i've never gotten to see live.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 8 May 2017 21:31 (three years ago) link

Awesome, JD. She's insanely inspiring, hope you enjoy the show.

Carlotta's Portrait (Ross), Monday, 8 May 2017 21:35 (three years ago) link

three months pass...

My "definitely" became a "sadly not" and I didn't make either Edinburgh International Festival shows because of work/life. Did anyone go?

brain (krakow), Thursday, 10 August 2017 09:12 (three years ago) link

Guys, back in around 1993/4 someone I knew had a demo of four or so tracks that PJ Harvey had recorded with the horn section from a then current group, the name of which eludes me.

I've looked through her discography and haven't seen anything that seems to fit this description. Any bells going off?

Noel Emits, Thursday, 10 August 2017 09:35 (three years ago) link

maybe the March 1993 peel session?

StanM, Thursday, 10 August 2017 10:53 (three years ago) link

Yeah, the Peel session where she did Claudine the Inflatable One, Primed and Ticking, Wang Dang Doodle and Naked Cousin has a horn section, but I don't know who they were.


Eyeball Kicks, Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:00 (three years ago) link

Ah, cool. If not the same recordings then it's presumably the same setup. No horns credited on two tracks releases on Peel Sessions it seems.

My recollection is that the tape was manufactured and had some basic artwork. As in, not something recorded off the radio. Maybe there was a release mooted at some point.

Noel Emits, Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:20 (three years ago) link

*the two tracks released on Peel Session 1991 - 2004

Noel Emits, Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:21 (three years ago) link

Did some digging – the horns came from Gallon Drunk.

Eyeball Kicks, Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:33 (three years ago) link

Iirc Gallon Drunk may have been the opening act on some or many dates of the tour?

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:39 (three years ago) link

Yes, Gallon Drunk used to open for her back in 1993, at least on some dates.

Terry Edwards and James Johnston (both from GD) are now members of PJ's current touring band.

mthrn, Thursday, 10 August 2017 18:04 (three years ago) link

I saw Gallon Drunk open for her in '93. I knew nothing about them at the time, but they had a baritone player who killed.

Scrawl was the other opener, and they were equally killer.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 10 August 2017 18:22 (three years ago) link

eight months pass...

Really into acre of land

done and dusted (Ross), Friday, 4 May 2018 06:52 (two years ago) link

More classic than the last album entirely

done and dusted (Ross), Friday, 4 May 2018 06:52 (two years ago) link

Love "Acre of Land" as well. IMO the last album wasn't as bad as some people made it out to be, but it definitely didn't enter my PJ top 5. The tour, though, was fantastic. She's an incredible live performer and it was a joy to see her (twice, lucky me!) with this big tight band. Apparently she's taking some time away from music now to focus on her lyric and poetry writing, so unfortunately it might be a while until she tours again.

BTW today is the 25th anniversary of Rid of Me!

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Friday, 4 May 2018 09:39 (two years ago) link

Indeed! Rob Sheffield on same


Ned Raggett, Friday, 4 May 2018 17:33 (two years ago) link

The tour was incredible. Saw her in Seattle - no opening band and she’s on at like 9. Full 8-10 piece band with an intro military procession beat. Closed with tbyml, down by the water and importantly - the river. From the record Is this desire which pj has said is her favourite record but it also came from a place of immense pain. New songs worked better live but I’d say let England shake live confirmed it’s her master work

That’s All Folks... (Ross), Friday, 4 May 2018 17:36 (two years ago) link

Will say the uh huh tour was absolute fire though. Floods drumming and klinghoffers 2nd percussion and guitar took tracks like the garden to another level. Highlight

My beautiful leah

That’s All Folks... (Ross), Friday, 4 May 2018 17:38 (two years ago) link

Never seen her live.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 May 2018 17:41 (two years ago) link

You're missing out, my friend.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 4 May 2018 17:55 (two years ago) link

Alfred, come correct my man

That’s All Folks... (Ross), Friday, 4 May 2018 18:44 (two years ago) link

Honestly, I think current Polly live is too austere, rehearsed and remote. I miss the guitar, I miss the band, I miss the occasional flashes of humor. Unless carrying around a sax (iirc) is her idea of humor.

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 4 May 2018 19:44 (two years ago) link

she's come by my reckoning exactly zero times to South Florida in the last 20 years.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 May 2018 19:48 (two years ago) link

She was at Pitchfork last summer!

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 4 May 2018 20:05 (two years ago) link

*smacks head*

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 May 2018 20:14 (two years ago) link

i drove to LA just to see her last summer, don't regret it a bit

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 4 May 2018 20:18 (two years ago) link

Wanna feel old? Rid Of Me LP is 25 years old today

Jeff W, Friday, 4 May 2018 20:41 (two years ago) link

Also loved the concert I saw during the White Chalk tour in 2008 -- a solo show with her playing the guitar, piano, keyboards, autoharp and a bunch of other stuff, very stripped down and intimate. She was chatty, often funny and seemed like a lovely, likeable person -- miles away from the well-rehearsed big band theatrics of the Hope Six tour (which I loved, too, albeit for very different reasons). As always incredibly charismatic and intense, locking eyes with audience members while playing.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Saturday, 5 May 2018 14:41 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Hopefully this means a long career


lost in sublimation (Ross), Wednesday, 20 June 2018 08:55 (two years ago) link

That's the flat from the "Who the Fuck" video!


ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Wednesday, 20 June 2018 10:28 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

The "Dress" demo has dubstep wub-wub bass. A woman ahead of her time.

Donald Trump Also Sucks, Of Course (milo z), Saturday, 25 July 2020 03:48 (eight months ago) link

two months pass...

Getting down to her albs. Dry is such a classic. Rid of me is solid though I don't like that Dylan cover (and they are usually great), and did lol at some of the Slint-era tunings.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 25 September 2020 11:26 (six months ago) link

four months pass...

A Woman, A Man: John Parish's Favourite PJ Harvey Recordings
^Great stuff

willem, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 09:39 (two months ago) link

The demo albums she's been putting out recently mostly go to show how fully formed her songs seem to have been from the start. The woman's a genius.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 4 February 2021 01:24 (two months ago) link

I was dismayed to hear that my equal favourite album of hers, "Is This Desire?", was so traumatic for her to make.
Also found it telling that the Hope Six track wasn't described at all, just the logistics of the recording. She kind of lost me after White Chalk.

assert (MatthewK), Thursday, 4 February 2021 02:21 (two months ago) link

Fascinating read! I kind of love it that John is not even mentioning Stories.

I'm both very impressed and slightly disappointed by the TBYML and ITD demos - it's indeed amazing that these songs were pretty much fully developed while she was writing and demoing them at home BUT it makes for a less interesting listen than 4-Track Demos (which were so unlike Rid of Me).

I guess this might change with future volumes of the series - e.g. the LES and THSDP demos apparently were very minimal and the arrangements were developed while jamming the songs live in the studio (or rather church/art gallery) with the band - so they will be probably fairly different from the final versions.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Thursday, 4 February 2021 18:39 (two months ago) link

man the second record she did with Parish in 2009? DO NOT sleep on that, matthewk…that is a bit of a bummer that the creation of Is this Desire was so fraught…or is it? Isn't major creativity often fraught?

the Hope Six record is the only record she has ever made that I've actively disliked…but good grief these demo records are indeed staggering… like 80% of what you hear of the finished product of "A Perfect Day Elise," one of my favorite recordings ever, is right there in that demo… and when Parish talks about how there are two phases, the bare bones sessions and the expensive sessions, the latter were to gussy up "elise"…I wager "Catherine," the other one therein that I treasure, is intact from the former sessions…

veronica moser, Thursday, 4 February 2021 23:24 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

The demo of "To Bring You My Love" is so menacing

Joe Bombin (milo z), Saturday, 3 April 2021 19:08 (one week ago) link

I'm not a huge fan of the glossy production of Stories but the raw demo version of the album is pretty awesome. Such a strong collection of songs; I don't understand why Beefheart told her these were her weakest demos.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Saturday, 3 April 2021 20:04 (one week ago) link

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